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


I.—Topography and Natural History.

Name.—New Deer was originally a part of the ancient parish of Deer, from which it was disjoined not long after the Revolution. It is termed in the ancient records Auchreddy, from the name of the land in which the church is situated. This name is engraved on the communion cups and plates, with the date 1694. Like other Scottish names, it is of Gaelic origin, as are many other names in the parish, such as Auchoach, Auchmaliddy, Auchna-gatt, Auchmunziel.

Extent, &c.— It is one of the largest parishes in the county of Aberdeen. Its greatest length from north to south is upwards of 14 miles. Its greatest breadth from east to west upwards of 8½ miles. Its contents upwards of 50 square miles.

Boundaries.—It is bounded on the north, by the parishes of Stri-chen, Tyrie, and Aberdour; on the west, by the parishes of King Edward, Monquhitter, Methlic, and Tarves; on the south, by the parish of Ellon ; on the east, by the parish of Old Deer.

Topographical Appearances.—With the exception of the hill of Mormond, New Deer is the highest ground in Buchan. No part of it, however, rises higher than 200 or 300 feet above the level of the sea. From the hill of Culsh, in the neighbourhood of the village, may be seen in a clear day the spire of Peterhead, about eighteen miles distant to the eastward. And, looking west, may be seen Bennachie, about twenty-five or twenty-eight miles off, the Foudland Hills, the hills in the neighbourhood of Banff and Cullen, and Benrinnis, in the county of Moray. The elevation 'of the hill of Cross Gight is rather higher than that of Culsh.

Hydrography.—There are no streams that deserve the name of rivers in this parish, the country being in general flat and all arable. It will give some idea of its elevation to mention, that branches of three rivers, running in three different directions, take their rise in the north part of this parish, not far from each other. One of them flows eastward towards the Ugie, passing Old Deer, and entering the German Ocean north of Peterhead. Another flows westward, and joins a stream that falls into the Deveron, which empties itself into the Moray Frith at Banff. A third flows south-westward, and joins the Ythan near Gight, which falls into the German Ocean at the Newburgh. All these three are but small streams.

Though New Deer is in the centre of a circle seventeen or eighteen miles distant from the sea on three sides, yet from its elevation the climate is cold ; the snow lies long, and often delays the operations of husbandry. The south and west winds are most prevalent; they are more violent than the east or north. But though the climate is cold, it is dry and healthy, and the inhabitants live to a great age, many exceeding eighty or ninety years.

The prevailing distempers are inflammatory complaints, arising probably from the people using too much oatmeal. Scrofula, too, ' is very common, as also are consumptions and gravellish complaints.

Soil.—The soil in general, with few exceptions, is light and shallow. It would answer well for agriculture if it were not for the climate and the subsoil. A great proportion of the parish rests on a hard rocky pan of from 6 inches to 2 feet thick, which prevents the surface water from sinking into the earth, and keeps the soil wet till the sun evaporates the moisture. This pan prevents trees from thriving and coming to any size. Attempts have been made, and in some cases successfully, to break up this pan, and give the surface water a passage into the earth.

In some parts the subsoil is moss on coarse clay, on others it is mixed with a coarse granite. Lime of indifferent quality is found in the land of Barrack. The farmers quarry it for themselves, and burn it either for building or for putting on the land.

There is. plenty of moss in the parish, though it is wearing away apace either by improvement, or by consumption as fuel. The part of it that has been cultivated, produces excellent crops when mixed with shell sand from the sea side. The country appears to have been once covered with wood, from the remains of trees that are dug out of the mosses, though it is somewhat remarkable that none these trees are fir.

II.—Civil History.

The materials for the history of this parish are very scanty. The inhabitants are a primitive race of people, and in many respects as for advanced in civilization as their neighbours. They have but small encouragement for improvement, as there are no resident heritors to set them an example. Dr Mavor, a celebrated compiler of voyages, travels, &c. was a native of this parish, being born in the land of Culsh.

Heritors.—There are nine heritors; of these only two have houses in the parish, and reside there occasionally. The heritors are, The Earl of Aberdeen; Mr D. Dingwall of Brucklaw; Mr Gordon of Cairnbanno and New Deer; Mr Gordon of Nethermuir, Mr Dingwall Fordyce of Culsh; Captain Ferguson of Pitfour; Mr Forbes Irvine of Schivas; the Trustees of Mr Gordon of Murtle; and the Trustees of the late Mr Simpson of Colleyhill. The proprietors of Brucklaw and Nethermuir have residences in the parish.

Parochial Registers.—The session records commence 1705. A portion of them, from 1727 to 1734, is lost. Since that period they have been regularly kept; and the old practice is still continued of entering each Sunday the text and the name of the minister who preaches.

Antiquities.—There are, or rather there were, many remains of Druidical temples and funeral monuments, to be seen in the parish. One of them, about a mile north of the village, still retains the name of the Standing Stones of Culsh, though the stones stand there no longer, having been taken away, about seventy years ago, to build the old manse. There are occasionally found many tumuli, which, when opened, contain urns of baked clay, filled with human bones and ashes. Not long ago, a farmer in the neighbourhood of the village, in improving a piece of ground, dug up six of these. These urns had neither top nor bottom. They were like chimney cans of baked clay, rudely formed, about 15 inches long, and filled with bones and ashes.

Two miles north of the village, stands the old Castle of Fedderate, now a complete ruin. Nearly all the best stones have been taken away by the farmers for building. It appears to have been once a place of considerable strength. It stands now in the middle of a field. A morass, now drained and improved, surrounded it, and the only access to it was by a causeway and a draw-bridge. Water, it seems, had been conveyed to it by means of pipes, for pieces of them have, at different times, been torn up by the plough. There is no tradition as to when it was built. The floors are all arched with stone. It came into the possession of the Irvines of Drum, and is now the property of Lord Aberdeen. [Since this was written, the greater part of the lands of Fedderate has been sold to Mr D. Dingwall of Brucklaw, who is now by this purchase the principal heritor in the parish.] It is said to have been one of the last strongholds of James II.'s partisans, who, after the battle of Killiecrankie, possessed themselves of Fyvie Castle, and, being obliged to abandon it, took refuge in Fedderate, but were pursued and expelled from thence by King William's troops.

About a mile to the west of the village is an extensive piece of moor called Bruce Hill. This is said to have derived its name from Edward, brother to Robert the Bruce. Here he is reported to have encamped after the battle of Inverury, and from this to have gone in pursuit of the Cummins to a place near Old Deer, called Aikey Brae. In memory of this victory, the market of Aikey fair is said to have been established on the spot where the battle was fought.


At the publication of the last Statistical Account, the population of New Deer was 2800, being 1324 males, and 1476 females.

From a survey taken lately on account of church extension, it was found to amount to 3621. It has been gradually increasing at the rate of one per cent. per annum, 10 per cent, each census. There are between 300 and 400 of the population located in the village of New Deer.

There are few or none blind, insane, deaf, or dumb. The number of all in these classes does not exceed 5 or 6.

Number of illegitimate births during the last three years, 32.


The parish is entirely an agricultural parish, and all the inhabitants are in some way or other engaged in this occupation. The farms, in general, are small; many of them mere crofts; and consequently, they are managed by the farmer's family.

The contents of the parish in imperial acres are as under, belonging to the respective heritors.

* From Mr D. Dingwall's purchase of the lands of Fedderate, his valued rent has increased to upwards of L. 1800 Scots, while Lord Aberdeen's is only L.1100. The valued rents, however, are not yet split, so as to determine it accurately.

The first column contains the nine heritors; the second and third columns, the land always in regular crop; the fourth column is pasture, partly green and wet, and partly heather and dry; the fifth column is moss or heather, and has once been in cultivation, as appears from the marks of ridges throughout it. The sixth column is the moss used for fuel, which, when not broken up, is pastured. The seventh column is young planted wood, generally larches and Scotch firs. The only part of this that appears to be thriving is some planted fifteen years ago near Brucklaw. The fifth and sixth columns are diminishing by being taken into cultivation.

Rental, &c.—The average rent of the best land may be from L. 2 to L. 3 an acre; the second quality from 10s. to L. 1. A very marked degree of improvement has taken place in agriculture since the publication of last Statistical Account.

The rate of grazing for cattle is from L. 1 to L. 1, 15s. ahead; of sheep from 5s. to 10s.

Wages.—Labourers receive 1s. 6d. a-day often hours and their meat, or 2s. a-day without meat. Masons and carpenters work at the rate of 3d. an hour.

Live-Stock.—The Buchan breed of cows is still much valued, and more so when crossed by the Teeswater. The smaller breeds are not now so saleable since live-stock has begun to be transported to London.

Husbandry.—The same system of cultivation is not pursued through the whole parish. A five or seven-shift is the general practice. The land lets very high; the leases generally for nineteen years, and some of them for life; but these are dying away and not renewed.

Farm-Buildings.—Farm-buildings are rather better than before, though still far from what they ought to be. Some of the large farmers have made great improvements, and reclaimed large tracts of wet ground; and if they had more capital, and were more encouraged by the proprietors, the improvements would be greater.

Statistics of the produce of the different lands in the parish of New Deer.

The above items of produce were obtained by actual inquiry at the respective farmers. Of the 17989½ quarters of oats, not more than one-fifth can be reckoned as of first quality—that is, there are 3597 quarters of oats of first quality, the remainder, 14392½ quarters, are of second quality. The land of Brucklaw to the extent of 100 acres is laid out in grass, and let for pasture. In Artamford there are 55 acres of similar description; in Nether-muir 40 acres; and in Little Auchreddy 40 acres. Rent about L.2, 5s. per acre.

Produce.—The following is as near an approximation as could be made to the amount of produce from the cultivated land as well as from the uncultivated:

V.—Parochial Economy.

Village.— There is but one village in the parish, New Deer, containing upwards of 100 houses, 90 on the property of Mr Gordon of Manar, and. the remainder on Lord Aberdeen's property. It lies on the ridge of a hill, and the fields decline to the east and to the west of the street. It is situated nearly at an equal distance from Banff on the north-west; Fraserburgh on the north-east; Peterhead on the east; and the Newburgh on the south. It is distant from Aberdeen nearly north thirty miles.

Means of Communication.—There is a daily post from Aberdeen, through Methlic, and the communication is carried on to Strichen, Peterhead, and New Pitsligo, and Banff. There are nearly 100 miles of roads in the parish; a good road great part of the way from New Deer to Ellon, distant thirteen miles. The turnpike-road from Peterhead to Banff crosses the parish; and a mail-coach regularly travels from Peterhead to Banff, and returns the same day. There is a stage-coach thrice a-week from Aberdeen to New and Old Deer and Strichen, through Ellon.

Ecclesiastical State.—The parish church is a very old and ruinous building. There is a date on it of 1622. It is about seven miles from the north and south extremities of the parish. It is in a very bad state of repair; but the heritors are about to erect a new one. The church being found too small, an aisle was added in 1773. It is seated for 900 persons, and the seats belong to the tenants, who pay 1s. 6d. a sitting at the commencement of their lease, which, when they quit their farms, they get back from the incoming tenant. [Since this was written, a handsome church has been built, capable of containing 1500 persons, and the old church has been entirely demolished.]

The manse was built in 1832, and is a commodious house. The glebe consists of 5 acres, value about L. 10, and a grass glebe of 5¾ acres, value about L. 5. The stipend is 16 chalders, half meal half barley, at the fiars price, with L. 10 for communion elements.

To accommodate the people at the south of the parish, and parts of the neighbouring parishes of Old Deer, Ellon, Tarves, and a small portion of Methlic, a chapel has been erected at the cost of about L. 700, calculated to seat 700 persons; but no minister has been yet appointed for want of funds. It is regularly supplied with divine worship by the ministers of New Deer, Old Deer, Ellon, Tarves, and Methlic.

There are three Dissenting meeting-houses belonging to the United Secession in the parish. They were all established there before the time of the present incumbent. The ministers are paid by voluntary contribution, some of them L.70 or L.80, and sometimes less.

In the north part of the parish those who are at a distance from the parish church are accommodated at the chapels of ease at New Byth and New Pitsligo.

The number of Dissenting families may be about 120; the number of those attending the Established Church, 657. The average number of communicants that attend the Established Church and communicate is 1240. [The above attend at the parish church; the remainder at the surrounding parish churches; some at New Pitsligo. some at New Byth, some at Methlic, some at Strichen, some at Old Deer, and some at Monquhitter.] They all attend the ordinances of religion regularly.

Education.—There are three parochial schools, endowed with the minimum salary each. The parochial school in the Kirktown is in very bad repair, and the heritors will do nothing to renew it, not conceiving themselves obliged by the late act of Parliament. The branches taught in the three parochial schools are, reading, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, Latin, Greek, mathematics. Some of these are but rarely required. The salary of each of the schoolmasters is L. 21, 7s. 9d. The amount of the school-fees of all three is L. 62, 9s. 10d. One of them as session-clerk has in perquisites L. 5, 10s.

There are also six private schools on the teachers' own adventure, two of them taught by females. The common branches of education are taught in them.

In addition to their other emoluments, the three parochial teachers derive from L. 20 to L. 80 each annually from a mortification made by the late Mr Dick of Forres.


With the exception of some very aged people, there are but very few above fifteen years of age who cannot read and write in a tolerable manner. The people in general wish to learn, but their poverty compels them to remove their children during the busy season from school, and put them to labour.

Library.—There is a library kept in the village; the books are in circulation among the members, and exchanged once a month.

Poor.—There are between 70 and 80 persons on the poor's roll, and every prospect of the number increasing. They receive from 6s. to L. 1 a quarter, and some of them 2s. 6d. a-week. The fund to supply this expense arises from the interest of L.700 stock, and the weekly collections, the latter amounting to upwards of L. 50 per annum. There are other incidents, as the proceeds of a mort-cloth, and occasional contributions from some of the heritors, and other individuals. I am sorry to see that the disposition among the poor to resort to parochial relief is increasing. The Dissenters contribute little or nothing to the support of the poor. A change of the law compelling them to support their own poor would be very desirable.

Fairs.—There are five fairs held in the village annually. One in April; a feeing market in May; and a market in June ; one in October, and a feeing market in November; at all these, horses, cattle, sheep, &c. are exposed to sale.

Inns.—There are three inns in the village. Two of them principal ones. Spirits are also sold by most of the retailers of tea and tobacco. These, however, through the whole parish, do not exceed eight or nine.

Fuel.—The fuel principally used is peat, procured from the neighbouring mosses, at the cost of about 1s. 9d. a cart load.

Revised January 1840.

See also...

Sketch of a Quiet Buchan Parish
By the Rev. Thomas M'William, M.A., Minister of New Byth (1899) (pdf)

Return to our Aberdeen Index Page


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