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Chapter 20. Administration and Divisions

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 districts :

(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 secondary schools.

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.


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