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The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume XII - Aberdeen
Parish of Kincardine O'Niel


I.—Topography and Natural History.

Name.—In old registers the name is uniformly written Kincarden O'Neal. Kincarden is said to be derived from Gaelic words signifying "the head of the hill." The village of Kincardine O'-Niel, in which the church and manse stand, is situated in a valley at the south-west comer of a hill of considerable height, named Ordfundlie. A rivulet, named Neal or Niel, running by the village, gives, it is supposed, the addition of O'Niel to Kincardine.

Extent, &c.—The average length of the parish from south to north is seven miles, and the breadth from east to west five. The form resembles that of a parallelogram, with some projections and indentations in its sides. As the extreme length in some places is fully eight miles, and the breadth above five, the area is probably about thirty-five square miles. On the west, the parish is bounded by those of Aboyne and Lumphanan; on the north, by the parishes of Tough and Cluny; on the east, by Midmar and Banchory-Ternan; and by the river Dee on the south, which, in its windings, divides it from the parish of Birse and part of Aboyne.

This parish may be said to be divided into three great straths or portions, by hills of considerable extent and height; one of which, the hill of Learney, may not improperly be regarded as a continuation of the hill of Fare. It runs in a circuitous direction north-west by west, cutting off a considerable portion from the other two divisions of the parish. The hill of Fare, which intervenes betwixt Midmar and Banchory-Ternan parishes, forms a part of the east boundary of this parish. It furnishes good peats to the tenants around its base,—the circumference of which is reckoned fourteen miles. It is in height nearly 1600 feet above the level of the sea, and is a landmark to ships on the east coast near Aberdeen. The other hills in the parish are cultivated or wooded to the tops. Ordfundlie divides the south from the mid, dle or centre division of the parish. The level ground in these two divisions is betwixt 400 and 500 feet above the level of the sea; the northern division of the parish a degree higher.

Hydrography.—The average breadth of the river Dee here is from 60 to 70 yards. When salmon are abundant in the river considerable numbers are killed here with the fly. Two miles below the village, a beautiful and substantial bridge of granite was built in 1812, at an expense of L.3500, one-half defrayed by Government, and the other half by subscription. The bridge has three arches, the centre arch 65 feet span, and the other two 60 each. When all the pillars or piers were built, and two of the arches thrown, the whole was destroyed by rough timber floating down, when the river was high. On that occasion, the contractor, Mr Minty, recovered L.1200 of damages off the owners of the timber. By the great flood in August 1829, two of the piers were considerably injured ; but were afterwards thoroughly repaired and bolted with bars of iron by the original contractor. This bridge is in the line of the old military road leading from Perth by Brechin, over the Cairn o' Mount, through this village to Huntly and Inverness. From the bridge to Huntly an excellent road has been made; but as no carriage road has yet been completed from it southward, much of the utility of this handsome edifice is lost to the public. But it is hoped a road to Cuttishillock, on this side of the Mount, part of which was made last year, will soon be completed.

The only other stream of note that runs through the parish is the burn of Belty, which, rising in the hills in the north-west corner of the parish, takes a diagonal course south-east, through the centre division, dividing it into nearly equal parts, and joins the Dee in the parish of Banchory. This stream, comparatively in-significant in its ordinary state, occasionally, when flooded, becomes a torrent, and the ground on its banks being level, it does much injury to the occupiers. In 1799 and 1829, by covering the crops then on the ground with mud and sand, it occasioned immense loss. In the latter year, this stream carried off two bridges com-pletely, and much injured three more, all built of stone and lime. The valley through which it runs comprises the largest division of the parish, and much of the soil on its banks being alluvial, and the subsoil mostly clay, is regarded as the deepest and best in the parish. Along the banks of the Dee the soil is light, sharp, and early.

Geology and Mineralogy.The rocks, of which there are few remarkable in the parish, are generally composed of whin and sandstone. There is also abundance of excellent granite, in extensive masses, both above and under ground, some of which has been cut for pillars and other purposes, seventeen feet long. There is no slate or limestone in the parish; nor, so far as I know, have any fossil organic remains, or any ores, mines, or simple minerals been found.

There are some very extensive plantations, (above 1500 imperial acres, the property of one proprietor). The Scotch fir and larch are the most common kinds raised. Latterly, considerable quantities of oak and ash have been planted, and seem to thrive, particularly the former. To Scotch fir, larch, and oak the soil would seem to be favourable. Larch, on the estate of Learney, has been found to thrive on the top of a hill exposed to the northern blasts, when Scotch fir, after a dozen of years, has become stunted and dwarfish. Still, it is doubtful if they will thrive to become timber. Birch would seem to be indigenous along the banks of the Dee.

II. —Civil History.

Land-owners.—The land-owners are, Peter Laing Gordon, Esq. of Craigmile; Francis Gordon, Esq. of Kincardine; The Heirs of the late Alexander Brebner, Esq. of Learney; Misses Innes of Ballogie; Duncan Forbes Mitchell, Esq. of Thainston; William Davidson, Esq. of Kebbity; Miss Scott of Campfield; Francis G. Fraser of Findrack; Archibald Farquharson, Esq. of Fincrean; James Lamond, Esq. of Stranduff; Duncan Davidson, Esq. of Mill of Kincardine; and Mr Ross of Cochrane's Croft, who holds between two and three acres of land in feu from the Laird of Kincardine, and who is the oldest proprietor in the parish.

Antiquities.—Tradition says that a bede-house or asylum for the support of eight old men existed in this village in the times of Popery; that it was established and supported by a quondam bishop of Aberdeen; but that it became extinct at the Reformation. No traces of house or funds now remain.

Parochial Registers.—Our parish registers of baptisms and marriages do not extend beyond the commencement of the last century; and, it appears, had for many years been very irregularly kept. Parents are very careless in not registering the births of their children.

Modern Buildings.—A very neat addition to his mansion-house was erected two years ago by Mr Gordon of Kincardine, who, since he bought the property about twenty-five years since, has also built a very handsome and commodious inn in the village. The mansion-house of Learney was burnt by accident about four years ago, but is again built in a handsome and modern style. The only other modern building in the parish proper to be noticed, is a small neat cottage by Mr Lamond on his lands of Stranduff.

The mills in the parish are all now on an improved construction, particularly one on the estate of Learney, and another on that of Mr Davidson of Mill of Kincardine. These two are very efficient, and give great satisfaction.


The population of the village of Kincardine O'Niel (the only one in the parish), and its precincts, is 288.

The yearly average of births for the last seven years is from 37 to 40; of deaths about 30 ; and marriages from 20 to 25.

No nobility reside or have property in the parish. A few of the heritors reside in it during summer and autumn. The rental of only one of the thirteen heritors is under L.50.


Improvements.—This parish has fully kept pace with the other districts of the county in the rapid progress of improvements which have distinguished the last thirty or forty years. Within that period, above 560 Scotch acres have been brought into tillage by the proprietors and tenants, by trenching and the trench plough. Cultivation, which was formerly in small patches, has been seen, within the period alluded to, to extend to great breadths and in regular fields. Within that period, poor and uncomfortable cottages, in which the farmer and his family resided fifty years ago, have given place to substantial and commodious houses, many of them covered with slates. Handsome farm-steadings also appear on every farm of any tolerable size. Enclosures, built wholly of stones, and sunk fences faced with that material, are now very general. A similar beneficial change has taken place in the improvement of the implements of husbandry, and in the breed of horses and black-cattle. The threshing-mills have now been generally adopted on farms even of moderate extent. They are furnished of a light construction, on a small scale, and at an expense which the great diminution of labour and increased production of grain from them will soon defray. A very favourable and agreeable change in the education, manners, and living of the people has also taken place within the last forty years. The inconvenience and hardship which this parish suffered from the want of roads previous to 1800 was very great. After that time, they were much improved,—and greatly to the benefit of the agriculture of the parish.

Extent and Produce of the Parish.—The following estimates of the extent of the parish in imperial acres, and the annual average produce raised in it, it is hoped, is near the truth.

Since the foregoing table was made out, I find, by plans shown me by the proprietor, that the estate of Craigmile contains above 1200 acres arable, and above 150 have been improved within the last three years, or are in the process of improvement. I must here advert to a considerable discrepancy betwixt the number of arable acres reported by my predecessor and the above. From the best information I have been able to procure, joined to my own observation for above thirty years, I find the return to Sir John Sinclair should have little, if at all, exceeded 4200 acres; for certainly above 560 have been since improved. Mr Morrice's advanced period of life, I know, rendered him wholly dependent on the information of others.

Strictly speaking, the value of butter, cheese, poultry, and eggs ought not to be added to the other productions of the parish, as they are only the means by which the previous valuation of turnips, potatoes, pasture, &c. is extracted. Exclusive of the value of these articles, the produce of the parish, conform to the above calculation, will nearly amount to L.16,000.

I reckon the average rent of arable land at L. 1, 1s. per imperial acre, which makes the rental of the arable property in the parish above L.5S00 ; but this is nearly L.200 short of the real rent. In general, the length of leases given by the proprietors is nineteen years.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Markets.—The village of Kincardine O'Niel (the only one in the parish) has two old established markets held at it in May and September for black-cattle, horses, sheep, &c. Two more for the same purposes, and two feeing-markets, have lately been advertised by the proprietor, and, it is hoped, may succeed. A monthly market, during the winter months, which promises to succeed, has been established at Tomaveen, in the northern division of the parish.

We have a post-office and daily post in the village,—the mail being carried through it by regular mail-coaches from Aberdeen to Ballater.

Ecclesiastical State.— I have already said that the church and manse are placed in the village,—a situation extremely inconvenient for at least two-thirds of the parishioners. An attempt was made above thirty-five years ago to get it removed to the centre of the middle division of the parish by the heritors in the two northern divisions, and it would have been effected but for the Act of 1709. Where it now stands, it is within 400 yards of the southern extremity of the parish, while some of the parishioners are nearly eight miles distant from their place of worship. Another place of worship, at least, is necessary, and would tend much to the comfort of the people. Even in the middle division, many of the people are above five miles distant from it. The church is at present in good repair, and, though an old edifice, a very comfortable place of worship, but too small for the population. It is seated only for 640, while, in 1842, 870 parishioners joined in the communion. The walls appear to have been built with small stones and run lime. Their age is unknown; but tradition says that they have stood above 200 years. In 1733, the roof was burnt down by a young man shooting pigeons on it, it being then covered with heath, which the wadding ignited. The roof was then covered with slates. In 1799, the roof was re-slated, and the doors and windows renewed, and made more comfortable. It has since been regularly seated, lathed, and plastered, and divided among the heritors. Of course, no seat-rents are paid. In the northern division of the parish, there are a good many Dissenters; nor is this to be wondered, when they are six or seven miles distant from the church, and have two Dissenting chapels much nearer them. They are principally of the Associate Secession Church. The number of communicants evinces that the church, notwithstanding the distance to hundreds, is well attended. There are no Societies for religious purposes in the parish.

Part of the present manse was built about the year 1760. It was repaired and an addition put to it in 1772. In 1812, it was again repaired for the present incumbent. It is comfortable, though not modern, the rooms being generally small. The glebe, including the tofts, measures about eight imperial acres. The stipend was augmented in 1832,—the heritors agreeing to give 17 chalders, half meal, half barley.

There is no place of worship of any description in the parish besides the Established Church.

Poor and Parochial Funds.—Within the last thirty years, two legacies of L.100 each have been bequeathed to the poor, which make the amount of their funds at present L.360 at 4 per cent. The average annual amount of collections, &c. applicable to the ^poor is from L.35 to L.40. But as there are generally from 45 to 50 and sometimes 60 [The necessities of the poor have forced the session to uplift nearly L.130 of these funds.] paupers on the roll, this provision is at all times small, and often quite inadequate. And recourse must then be had to the heritors, who have never refused to contribute when called on. One lady, a proprietrix, has for years sent L.5 for their behoof at the commencement of winter, and she and some of the other proprietors give aid in meal or money to the poor on their estates during winter. I may here add, that, till necessity compelled, no application was made for aid from the poor's funds, and none receiving aid are permitted to beg beyond the bounds of the parish.

Education.—There are three parochial schools in the parish, placed one in each of the divisions already mentioned, at two of which, Greek and Latin may be taught, and at all of them, arithmetic, book-keeping, the practical parts of mathematics, writing, reading English, and English grammar. As to the salaries of the teachers, the heritors, of course, assess themselves in three chalders of victual; but as one of the teachers has the benefit of a small mortification, and another derives emolument as clerk to the presbytery and the Justices of the Peace of the district, acting under the Commutation Road and Small-Debt Acts, the conversion of the three chalders paid by the heritors has been divided among them. The salary of each, on an average, may be estimated at about L.25, and their school fees about L.20 more each. They all have the legal accommodation as to houses, and the original schoolmaster has the legal garden. They have also all been found entitled to the benefit of Dick's Mortification. The people are alive to the education of their children, so much so, that I am justified in saying that there are few, if any, children above six years of age who cannot read the New Testament, and few of the rising generation in the parish above twelve who cannot write. Indeed, I have reason to believe, that there are not above six or seven persons in the parish who cannot read a plain chapter of the Bible.

Libraries.—There are three circulating libraries in the parish, in each of which there are above 300 volumes. One of them contains books only on religious subjects.

Fuel.—Peats are obtained from the hill of Fare, already mentioned, and from some inland mosses, several of them now nearly exhausted.

Inns, &c.—Besides the inn in the village, in which all the district courts are held, there are not fewer than ten or twelve houses or shops in the parish in which spirits are sold.

July 1842.

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