Sheriffs were appointed
in the twelfth century, but it was not till the fourteenth that the
office became hereditary in Scotland. In Kincardineshire the Keiths were
the hereditary sheriffs for some two hundred years from about 1350.
Their jurisdiction probably did not coincide with the present
boundaries, but their power and influence in the county was undoubted.
It would appear also that in the Mearns the offices of sheriff and
forester were often united. The royal forester had jurisdiction in
offences against the forest laws, and received certain payments or
privileges for superintending the hunting domains, such as Cowie and
Durris. In addition to the sheriff, we hear also of thanes, of whom
there were at least seven in the Mearns. Originally stewards over the
royal lands, they ultimately became hereditary tenants of the King.
Those hereditary powers were abolished after the “Forty-five,” the
sheriff, an advocate by profession, henceforth holding his office direct
from the Crown.
Besides the Lord-Lieutenant, who may be regarded as the head of the
county, but whose duties are now largely ceremonial, there are in
Kincardineshire Deputy-Lieutenants ; but the real executive power is
vested in the salaried Sheriff, assisted in his judicial and
administrative capacity by a Sheriff-Substitute. The Sheriff-Principal
of Aberdeenshire is Sheriff of Kincardine and also of Banff.
The chief administrative body in the county is the County Council, which
came into existence in 1889. It is presided over by a chairman chosen
from amongst the elected members, who is also designated convener of the
county. Representatives come from each of the nineteen parishes or
electoral divisions in the county, these again being grouped into five
(1) Laurencekirk district, with four electoral divisions; (2) St Cyrus
district, with three; (3) Stonehaven district, with five; (4) Lower
Deeside, with four; and (5) Upper Deeside, with three. Each of the five
districts has a committee consisting of the County Councillors for the
electoral divisions of the district and of representatives selected from
the various parish councils. Roads and bridges, public health, diseases
of animals, protection of wild birds, valuation, finance, and the
general administrative oversight of the county are under the control of
the County Council.
By the Education Act of 1872, School Boards in every parish had the
charge of education ; but the Education Act of 1918 has now established
an Education Authority for the whole county to control both primary and
The civil parishes, each with its council to carry out the provisions of
the Poor Law and other duties, number nineteen: Arbuthnott,
Banchory-Devenick, Banchory-Ternan, Benholm, Bervie, Dunnottar, Durris,
Fetter-cairn, Fetteresso, Fordoun, Garvock, Glenbervie, Kinneff,
Laurencekirk, Maryculter, Marykirk, Nigg, St Cyrus, Strachan. The
ecclesiastical parishes are twenty-two : all the civil parishes and the
quoad sacra parishes of Cookney, Portlethen, and Rickarton. Fifteen of
these form the Presbytery of Fordoun, while five are in the Presbytery
of Aberdeen and two in the Presbytery of Kincardine O’ Neil.
The county now unites with the Western Division of Aberdeenshire in
returning one member to Parliament.
Bervie, a very ancient burgh, sent representatives to the Scottish
Parliament from 1612, at least, down to 1707. Under the Act of Union it
was classed with Aberdeen, Arbroath, Brechin, and Montrose—a group
returning one member to the British Parliament. Bervie is still one of
the Montrose Burghs, Aberde n has two members of its own.