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

[Drawn up by the late incumbent, the Rev. George Middleton. ]

I. Topography and Natural History.

Name, Boundaries, &c.—The name of this parish appears to be derived from the Saxon word Mid, and the Gaelic word Marr, signifying a black forest.

Extent, &c.—The parish is nearly 7 miles long from east to west, and about 5½ broad from south to north, in some places, and in others not above 4½. It is bounded on the east by the parish of Echt; on the south, by Banchory Ternan and Kincardine O'Neil; on the west, by Lumphanan and Cluny; and by Cluny on the north.

Topographical Appearances, &c—The surface of the parish is very uneven, being elevated into two hill ridges, and of course depressed by their accompanying vales. Between the ridges flow rills or small burns from west to east. The ridges are of so gentle acclivity as to offer no obstacle to the plough from the bottom to the summit, and, if properly tilled, produce very fair crops, both green and white, unless where the soil is so thin as not to admit of ploughing. In that case, it is planted with Scotch firs, which thrive better than could well be expected from such meagre material, add considerably to the beauty of the country, afford shel-ter for the cattle, and tend considerably to improve the climate. These ridges slope to a level as they proceed towards the west end of the parish ; both, however, emerge suddenly from their depression to eminences considerably loftier than those from which they descend. In the north-west end of the parish, there are two or three farms, of which several parts of the arable fields are between 700 and 800 feet above sea level, but most of the farms in the parish are, on an average, about 460 feet above sea level. Though there are many eminences in the parish, yet there is not one in it but the hill of Fare that deserves the name of a hill. It rises about 1800 feet above the sea. On the north side of this hill, along its bottom, are between 400 and 500 acres of arable land, mostly of good quality. The Castle of Midmar, the seat of John Mansfield, Esq., is placed on the north side of this hill, at 300 feet from its base. The view towards the north and north-east is extensive. The scenery is very beautiful, owing to the alternate eminences and valleys which are interspersed with shrubs and trees of various kinds. Of the time at which it was built, there is no historical account. Tradition informs us, that part of it was erected by Sir William Wallace, when Governor of Scotland, as a hunting-seat for his friend, Sir Thomas Longavale.

Geology and Mineralogy.—Granite and whinstone are in abundance, both in blocks and quarries. The granite is beautiful, and capable of a fine polish. Some of the stones are from eight to ten feet long, and are very useful for lintels, and ornamental in building.

Soils.—Though much has been done of late to correct and improve the soil, yet there remain still several patches of marshy ground, inclined to moss, to employ the ingenuity and industry of the active agriculturist. As a spirit of improvement is at present the order of the day, it is to be hoped that remaining defects and blemishes will soon be removed. Where the hilly ridges towards the west end of the parish slope into the valley or level, there predominates a thin soil of sand and clay, slightly mingled with loam, resting on a subsoil of gravel. Of this character is a great proportion of the land lately brought under cultivation. The quantity of improved marshy ground is still yearly increasing.

Hydrography.-—Though this parish is well supplied with perennial springs and rills of fine water, there is no stream deserving the name of river, or even rivulet. There are several chalybeate springs, formerly esteemed for their effects in removing scorbutic complaints; but now they are rarely resorted to.

Botany.—In 1808-1809, there were about 2 10 acres only under wood. Now the plantations, under trees of various kinds, amount to about 1400 acres, properly thinned, pruned, and thriving. The clumps and hedgerows are, for the most part, judiciously laid down and kept. Here it may be observed, however, that too little at-tentioji is paid to extirpate the noxious weeds that, in many places, infest the fields, offend the eye, and prove inimical to the crops of grass and corn.

II.—Civil History.

Parochial Registers.—These consist of the kirk-session minutes, earliest date, 17th April 1768; records of baptisms, 22d September 1717; records of marriage-contracts, earliest date, 18th October 1718.

Land owners.—Of these are four: John Mansfield, Esq. of Midmar, who possesses the most extensive and valuable estate in the parish; Mrs Duff of Corsindae has the next in extent and value; Colonel Gordon of Cluny lately purchased the estate of Shiels; Mr William Davidson is proprietor of Kebbaty. The only residing heritors are Mrs Duff of Corsindae, and Mr Davidson of Kebbaty. The former may be said to reside only occasionally.

Eminent Men.—Under this head we may mention the Rev. John Ogilvie, D. D., the late incumbent, and predecessor to the present minister of the parish. He was allowed to be an able divine, a good critical scholar, an excellent orator, a sincere Christian, and an agreeable member of society. His superior abilities are evinced by his Britannia, and several other productions of his pen. He died in the year 1813, at the advanced age of eighty-four.

The late James Mansfield, Esq. of Midmar, and father of the present proprietor, John Mansfield, Esq. was a gentleman that deserved the gratitude, not only of his tenantry, but also of the neighbourhood. He had much merit in setting a good example of an improved style of husbandry, and liberally contributing to promote its advancement. From the most wretched and sterile condition imaginable, in which he found his property in Midmar after making the purchase, he brought about 500 acres most contiguous to his dwelling to resemble a flourishing garden, and these he set apart for his home-farm. When he began his agricultural operations, so rugged, wild, and barren were most of the fields, as not to be worth 5s. per acre; now they draw from L.1, 10s. to L.2. M. James Mansfield died in 1823, much and justly regretted by his tenantry, and a wide circle of friends and relatives.



Agriculture and Rural Economy.

of which a considerable extent may yet be brought under the plough, and planted with advantage.

The crops raised generally are oats and barley. The green crops are turnips and potatoes. The duration of leases is nineteen years, which is too short a period when expensive improvements are undertaken. The most common complaint, however, among the farmers, is the low price of grain, which renders it very difficult to meet the term of payment of rents, servants' wages, tradesmen's bills, &c. without encroaching on their capital.

Produce.—The average gross amount of raw produce raised in the parish, as far as can be ascertained, is as follows:—

Rent of Land.—The average rent of land may be said to be L.1, 5s. per Scotch acre of the ordinary quality. Some of it, however, is not worth above 5s. per acre, and other fields draw upwards of L.2 per acre.

The real rent of the parish is about L.3000; the valued, L.2387 Scots.

Breeds of Live-Stock.—The number of black-cattle of all ages, about 1420; of horses, 170; sheep, 730; swine, 40. The keep of a cow per annum is valued at L.4; an ox, at L.3, 3s.; young cattle, L.1, 10s.; a full-grown sheep on hill pasture, 4s.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Aberdeen, which is about fifteen miles distant, is the nearest market-town. Thither our farmers drive all their grain and farm-produce. The corn-merchants attend the Aberdeen weekly markets to purchase grain, and when there is a brisk demand, they send their agents through the country to buy for them, and allow about 6d. for the boll or quarter.

Ecclesiastical State—The church was built in 1787. It accommodates about 600. It is rather too near the south side of the parish, and, by consequence, rather too far from the north, especially during the winter time. The sittings are free, the area being divided among the heritors according to their valued rents, for the accommodation of their tenantry, who are in general very well provided for. The average number of communicants is 470. Public worship is well attended, and the congregation make a very decent appearance on the Sabbath day. The manse is old, and it is not known when it was built. It has undergone several repairs within these twenty years, and it is very insufficient at present. [A new manse was built in 1840, nearly on the site of the old.] The glebe, including the stance of the manse, offices, and garden, consists of 12 acres, 3 roods, 2 falls Scots measure. It may be valued at L.25 yearly. The stipend, as modified 13th and 27th February, commenced with crop 1829. Meal, at eight stone per boll, 49 bolls, 3 firlots, 1 peck, 3 8/10 lippies; bear, Linlithgow measure, 3 bolls, 1 peck, 2¼ lippies; money Sterling, L.186, 6s.

Education.—In the parochial school, the branches of instruction taught are, English grammar, writing, arithmetic, geography, practical mathematics, and Latin. The parochial teacher has the legal accommodation, and the medium salary, and his school fees may amount to about L.30 a-year; the session-clerk's salary and other dues, such as marriage proclamations, &c. may amount to about L.4. The average number of scholars attending the school annually may amount to 70. There are one or two Sabbath schools in the parish. [There is now a large and select parish library, which is much resorted to.]

Poor and Parochial Funds.— There are 17 or 18 on the poor's list. Our Sabbath collections amount to about L.30 annually, exclusive of the public collections for the Aberdeen Infirmary, and collections for Highland Schools and Foreign Missionaries, &c.

There were L.200 belonging to the poor, which had been deposited in the hands of one of the heritors of the parish, who failed, and paid only at the rate of 3s. a pound. No assessment has as yet been imposed on the parish for relief of the poor; but something, it is presumed, must soon be done for the support of an overgrown class of paupers.

There are on the skirts of the parish two Dissenting congregations; the one consisting of the United Associate Seceders, the other of the Original Burgher Associate Synod. Both are mostly made up from neighbouring parishes. [The latter has now joined the Established Church, and their clergyman is a member of Presbytery.]

Miscellaneous Observations.

Since the last Statistical Account was written, not only the population has greatly increased, but the land rents have advanced from about L.1100 to about L.3000, and, I believe, from good authority, they are more punctually paid; while most of the farmhouses have been rebuilt, enlarged, and improved, and the office-houses are on a much better plan. A considerable extent of the fields is inclosed with stone dikes and improved; turnpike and parochial roads have been made and are kept in good repair; stagecoaches pass and repass daily. Many acres of moory and marshy ground, that were useless and even offensive, are now producing remunerating crops of corn, grass, and trees of various kinds.

Revised May 1842.

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