According to the last
census returns, five out of every twelve of the adult population of
Kincardineshire were directly engaged in agriculture ; but if we
consider those indirectly engaged in it and in its allied occupations,
the proportion would be almost doubled. Other industries, then, take a
secondary place. In the absence of large towns to attract the rural
population, there is not much concentration of labour nor any great
development of the factory system, as in Forfarshire.
The first linen-yam mill in Scotland was set up at Bervie in 1790 ; and
flax spinning, formerly an important home industry, is still carried on
at Bervie, as well as at Gourdon and Johnshaven. Handloom weaving was a
widespread occupation in most of the towns and villages till steam power
was introduced about 1850, when many weavers found employment on the
infant railways. Handloom linens are still made in Laurencekirk, but
elsewhere the industry is extinct. Stonehaven has a mill for woollen
fabrics and hosiery, and a flourishing factory for fishing-nets.
There are distilleries at Glenury, Fettercairn, and Auchinblae; and a
brewery at Laurencekirk. The development of the bicycle and motor-car
industry has, in recent years, given employment to an increasing number
of skilled workmen in the county. Laurencekirk and Stonehaven are
centres for carriage building. The well-wooded valley of the Dee has
several sawmills, supplying pit-props for mining districts and timber
for box- or case-making in Aberdeen and elsewhere.
A manufacture, long extinct, was the making of a special kind of
snuff-box in Laurencekirk. The peculiarity of the box was a concealed
hinge and pin, invented by Charles Stiven about 1780.
Kincardineshire has neither coal nor iron ore. In the end of the
eighteenth century large quantities of an irregular mineral substance
called “ native iron ” were, however, found in Fettercairn. Detached
pieces of various sizes were turned up by the plough, which were
converted into use by heating and hammering in the local smithies. The
origin of this metallic substance, which was soon exhausted, was never
properly accounted for, although many theories, fantastical and
otherwise, were propounded.
Granite is quarried at Cove and Hill of Fare. Formerly this industry
seems to have been of more importance in certain parts of the country
than it is now. At the beginning of last century, for example, about 600
hands were employed in the Nigg quarries. From these, granite blocks,
squared and dressed, were shipped at Aberdeen to pave the London
streets. Sandstone is freely distributed over the county, and much of it
is utilised for road metal. The quarries of Lauriston, St Cyrus, and
Threewells, Bervie, supply excellent building-stone, which is easily
Another industry, now entirely given up, was limestone burning. The lime
from the kilns of Mathers, St Cyrus, was in great demand among farmers.
Similar kilns existed in Fordoun, Fettercairn, and Banchory. Parts of
old kilns still remain at Clatterin Brigs and Mains of Drumtochty.