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The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume XII - Aberdeen
Parish of Kemnay

[Drawn up by the late incumbent, the Rev. Patrick Mitchell, D. D.]

I.—Topography and Natural History.

Extent.— The measurement of the estate of Kemnay, according to the last survey, is 3306 acres and a fraction; that of Lord Kintore's property in the parish, 524 acres and a fraction; several hundred acres are covered with thriving plantations. The whole parish was the property of the Earl of Kintore, and of our only residing land-holder, John Burnett, of Kemnay, Esq., till of late when Lord Kintore was authorized by law to sell part of his entailed Kemnay property to Colonel Fraser of Castlefraser, for the redemption of his land-tax. Kemnay is from 4 to 5 miles in length, but, being of an irregular figure, it is not easy to ascertain its mean breadth, which may be perhaps nearly three miles.

Boundaries.—-This parish is fifteen miles west of Aberdeen, the county town. It is bounded on the east, by Kintore; on the south, by Skene; on the west, by Cluny; and on the north, north-east, and north-west, by the river Don, and by a tributary of the Don, named the burn of Ton, which divide it from the parishes of Monymusk, Chapel of Garioch, and Inverury.

Rivers.—The Don and the burn of Ton. The former used to abound throughout in excellent salmon. A very great proportion is now intercepted by the stake-nets and cruives at and near th mouth of the river.

Surface and Soil.— The surface of this parish is rather flat upon the whole. The greater part of the soil is a light mould, lying on sand. We have alluvial lands on the banks of the Don and the Ton, which are a fine rich loam, deep, and free from stones; but they are not of great extent. The soil of our rising grounds is, for the most part, bedded on clay, and is generally observed to improve in richness and fertility as the plough ascends to the highest point of elevation.

There was, in Kemnay, a very considerable extent of peat-moss; but by much the greater part of it has been consumed in fuel, and converted by draining into corn-land.

II.— Civil History.

Parochial Registers.— We have seven volumes of parochial registers, five of which are very thin, the oldest beginning with the year 1660. They seem to have been regularly kept, and the volumes themselves are in sufficient preservation, and are all legible. The two first contain a register of burials, which appears to have been discontinued early in the last century.

Antiquities.—The only remains of antiquity that are extant in this parish are, 1. a long stone set on end, whose height is 11˝ feet above ground, and its mean girth about 9 feet, quite in the state in which it was found in the earth; and, 2. that sort of repository for the remains of the dead which is called a cestvaen, about 5 feet in length and 2 feet wide, fenced on the four sides below ground with four stones, and covered with a broad piece of granite (all the stones being undressed,) and containing a broken urn of burn-ed clay and a few human bones. It was accidentally uncovered by the plough.


All are of the Established religion, excepting a few Dissenters, chiefly Independents, to which connection the principal landholder and his family belong.


Agriculture.— Scarcely any farinaceous grain, besides oats and bigg, is sown in the parish; very few pease, and very little wheat. Every farmer and cottager has a certain extent of his land, proportioned to his holding, in turnips and potatoes, every year, which are succeeded, next season, by bear or oats, with rye-grass and clover. The most common rotation is the Berwickshire, but it begins to be thought too exhausting for our light soil; and although some of the landholders of the county bind their tenants to this rotation, others prefer a six or a seven years' shift, the former including two, and the latter three white crops. The general duration of leases is nineteen years.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Ecclesiastical State.—The parish church is not exactly in the centre of the parish, but its site is nearly as convenient for the parishioners as it could be. It is not above three miles from the most distant house in the parish, and the greater part of the population is within a mile and a-half from it. It was built, as appears from an inscription on the belfry, in 1632. It was probably erected on the site of one of the tituli, which, in Roman Catholic times, depended on the parsonage of Kinkell, to which the parish of Kemnay belonged in the beginning of the fifteenth century. It was repaired in 1794, but is, at present, in a very insufficient state. Owing to the thickness of the walls, and the smallness of all the windows save two, it is not well lighted. It cannot be sufficiently ventilated, for the floor is from three to four feet below the level of the burying-ground, which is highest at the front wall of the building. It is consequently damp. It affords accommodation to nearly 500 sitters. Almost all the farmers and crofters have free sittings on the ground floor. The seats on the site of the communion table, and those of two galleries, belong to the kirk-session, as administrators for the poor, out of whose funds they were built, and for them the session draws annually, at 6d. each, nearly L.4.

The present manse was built in 1796, and succeeded a manse which, in 1680, was built at the sole expense of the then minister, and was, with great propriety, denominated Castle Folly. Arrangements have been concluded for repairing the present building and erecting an addition. The glebe, including the garden, the site of the manse and offices, and the road by which it is approached from the public highway, is nearly ten Scotch acres in extent, about three acres of which, of the most worthless soil, called grass land, the present incumbent reclaimed from heath and marsh. The glebe is valued at L. 10 per annum.

The stipend is L. 150, of which, L.33, 6s. 10d. is received from the Exchequer. The communion element money amounts to L.8, 6s. 8d.

Education. —There is no seminary of learning in the parish but the parochial school, with which Mr Stevenson, the present enter prising schoolmaster, has conjoined an academu for the education of boys of a higher class. Of these he has now about thirty, from different parts of the kingdom, under his charge; and, including these, has about 160 scholars in the course of the year. The salary amounts to L.25, 13s. 4d. The schoolmaster also enjoys the interest of 850 merks Scots, bequeathed, many years ago, by different individuals for promoting education in the parish, and under the administration of the kirk-session, who lend it at interest along with the fund of the poor. He also participates in the Dick bequest. [For a more minute account of the Kemnay Academy and its conductor, s Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 468.]

Library.— We have for some years had a parish library, consisting of works on divinity, civil and ecclesiastical history, and travels.

Poor and Parochial Funds.—The average number of our pari poor is 26, chiefly widows and single women. We divide among them what is under the administration of the kirk-session, at four terms, giving sometimes occasional aid in cases of distress. Some of them receive nearly L. 3 a-year, some L. 2, others L. 1, 16s, and three or four L. 1, 4s., each, according to their respective needs. Our funds consist of the interest of legacies bequeathed at different times, and by different benefactors, to the poor of the parish, to the amount of L. 400; weekly collections at church, which have greatly increased during the last forty years, and, at an average, may be stated at L. 25 a-year; an annual donation of L. 5 from the Earl of Kintore, who possesses about a sixteenth part of the valued rent of the parish; seat-rents, which bring nearly L. 4 a-year; and L.20, when our turn comes, from the charity of the late Mr Burnett of Dens, a successful merchant in Aberdeen, who bequeathed to the Synod a sum of money for the relief of the poor and distressed over the whole of their bounds, appointing the interest thereof to be paid in rotation to the several kirk-sessions of the synod, the lowest allowance to any kirk-session being L. 20. In general, our poor have shown great unwillingness to accept parochial relief. This feeling is now, however, less prevalent than formerly.

July 1842.

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