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


I.—Topography and Natural History.

The parish of Rathen is said to be one of the most ancient in the county of Aberdeen, and at one time contained within its limits the greater part of the parish of Strichen, and a part of the parish of Fraserburgh. The church and teinds, it is said, were at an early period appropriated to the Cathedral of the diocese, the incumbent of the benefice becoming the stipendiary of that establishment, till its dissolution at the Reformation.

Extent, &c.—The parish is 3 miles distant from Fraserburgh, and extends upwards of two miles along the sea-coast betwixt that town and Peterhead; from thence it runs inland, in a south-west direction, to the extent of seven miles. The average breadth is 2 miles. There is a vein of limestone on the estate of Auchirus, yielding lime of excellent quality for building or manure, which is occupied by an industrious tenant, who has generally a great demand for the lime, chiefly for building.

The few plantations in this parish have made a rapid advance during the last fourteen or fifteen years, to which (it is the opinion of the writer of this report) the early seasons we have enjoyed since 1817, have not a little contributed, by the young shoots coming to a degree of maturity before winter. The north-west wind seems to be the most noxious in this district,—the few trees we have, when in exposed situations, being bended towards the south-east.

II.— Civil History.

Antiquities.—The few antiquities in this parish are, 1. A Druid temple on the estate of Cortes, from which that property is said to derive its name; Cortes meaning a circle in the Gaelic language. 2. The three cairns of Memsy, described in the former Statistical Report, one of which only now remains, is composed of small round stones; the cairn is about 60 feet in circumference at the base, and about 15 or 16 feet high. In the foundation of one of the former cairns, there was discovered an urn of peculiar shape, containing calcined bones. There were also found several human skulls, and a short sword with an iron handle. The latter, with the urn, were, a few years ago, presented to the Society of Antiquaries at Edinburgh, by Mr Gordon of Cairnbulg. The foundation of one of these cairns exhibits a large mass of vitrified matter, resembling what is found in vitrified forts. On a rising ground east of the church, there have been found at various times urns of different sizes, containing calcined bones. In one of these, a large boar's tusk was discovered about twelve years ago, which is now in the Museum of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

On the boundary of this parish with that of Lonmay, there is a well called the Rood Well; but regarding it, there is no particular tradition.

"There are also two mounds, or hillocks of earth, near the church, and not a mile asunder, that seem to have been formed by the hands of men. They are nearly circular, and slope towards the top, forming there an horizontal plain, somewhat circular also, of about 30 yards diameter. Both are pretty steep all around; except that access to the top is tolerably easy on one quarter of each, by means of the rising ground adjoining. The one is called Trefor Hill, and the other St Oyne's. Some think they have been old encampments.

"There are two old castles in the parish both in ruins—Cairn-builg and Inverallochie, which seem to have been places of considerable strength, especially Cairnbuilg,—the walls of which are almost entire, and of prodigious thickness. It was the family seat of Lord Salton's predecessors, and called Philorth, till sold by Sir Alexander Fraser in 1613 to Fraser of Durris, when its name was changed to Cairnbuilg: And Sir Alexander then transferred its former name to another house that belonged to him, about a mile to the westward, which it still retains, and has been the seat of the Saltoun family ever since.

"Inverallochie appears to be inferior in strength to Cairnbuilg. No date is seen about either of them. Till of late, a stone above the entry to Inverallochie bore, with the Cumines' arms, the following inscription: "I, Jordan Cuming gat this house and land for bigging the abbey of Deer." (Old Statistical Account.)

Buildings.—Mr Gordon of Cairnbulg, about thirty years ago, built a mansion-house on the estate of Cortes, which then belonged to him, but is now the property of James Strahan, Esq. the only resident heritor: it is surrounded with very thriving plantations of different kinds of wood, and ornamented with ponds of water.

The estate of Memsy was sold by the late Colonel Fraser to Lord Saltoun, which estate is said to have been the property of Colonel Fraser's ancestors for upwards of three centuries. The. mansion house of Memsey is occupied at present by Mrs Leslie, widow of Charles Leslie, Esq. M. D. who died in 1839. Auchiries belongs to Mr Chalmers Hunter of Tillery. Colonel Fraser of Inverallochy built a cottage lately with suitable offices on his estate of Inverallochy, favourable for sea-bathing, no doubt, for the occasional residence of his family; his principal residence is at Castle Fraser, a property belonging to the Colonel, situated in the parish of Cluny, in this county.

Heritors.— The parish is divided among the following proprietors : Right Honourable Lord Saltoun, the patron ; John Gordon, Esq. of Cairnbulg; Colonel Fraser of Inverallochy; William C. Hunter, Esq. of Auchiries; Thomas Gordon, Esq. of Cairness; John Lumsden Sherifs, Esq. of Rathen; William J. Anderson, Esq. of Mains and Mill of Forrest; and William Shand, Esq. of Craigellie.



Several substantial farm-houses have been lately built in the parish, some of them covered with slate and others with tiles. On the farms of considerable extent, thrashing-machines have been erected; which are considered a much more effectual method of separating the grain from the straw than the old mode, and a great saving of labour to the farm-servants. Agriculture is conducted, as in the neighbouring parishes, by a regular rotation of crops of sown grass and grain, the fields being previously prepared by fallow, crops of turnip, potatoes, or beans. A considerable addition has been made to the quantity of arable land in the parish, since the Statistical Report of 1793.

Fishings.—The estates of Cairnbulg and Inverallochy are the only lands in this parish which extend to the sea-coast. On these estates there are fishing villages very contiguous, containing by the census of 1831, 820 inhabitants. In 1801, there were only 404 inhabitants in those villages. During the herring-fishing at Fraserburgh, which commences in July, and generally continues to the end of September, the fishing villages in this parish are almost deserted, as the fishers who are able to be employed at that fishing remove to Fraserburgh with their families.

On the shores of these estates, there is often abundance of seaweed, affording additional supply of manure to the lands. Till of late, when the season and weather permitted, a great part of the sea-weed from the rocks, or drifted ware, was manufactured into kelp, in some seasons, it is said, to upwards of 80 tons. The reduced value of kelp, within these few years, has caused the making of kelp to be almost discontinued on this coast. The estates of Cairnbulg and Inverallochy are very valuable when compared with their extent, the abundance of sea-weed affording a great additional supply of manure, by which means the occupiers of the lands are enabled to keep their farms in a high state of cultivation. Rent.—The real rent of the parish is supposed to exceed L. 5000 Sterling; the valued rent is L. 3520 Scots.

This parish is separated from the parish of Fraserburgh by a small stream called the water of Philorth or Rathen, which has its source in the upper part of the parish of Tyrie. Trout of considerable size and various kinds are caught in it; but it does not appear at present to be frequented by salmon. The writer of this report is informed by the proprietor of Cairnbulg, that he has a grant of salmon-fishing in that stream from the Crown, of a remote date,—which would lead to the conclusion, that at one period it had not been entirely destitute of that description of fish.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Means of Communication.-—The turnpike-roads from Aberdeen and Peterhead to Fraserburgh form a junction in this parish on the estate of Cortes. The cross roads have of late been much improved.

Ecclesiastical State.—The church is old, and inadequate to the population. The minister's stipend is L. 100, 3s. 9 10/12d. including communion elements allowance; 39 bolls 2 firlots bear; and 44 bolls, 3 pecks, and 4/5 lippy meal. The glebe consists of 5½ acres. The manse was built in 1803. The number of families belonging to the Established Church is 400; of Dissenting or Seceding families, 40.

Education.— There is at present only one parochial school in the parish, and two private schools; but the parish would require additional schools, which it is hoped will soon take place. The parochial schoolmaster's salary is the minimum, but he receives a share of the donation bequeathed by the late Mr Dick to the schoolmasters in the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray. His fees may amount to betwixt L. 24 and L. 32 per annum.

Poor.—The average number of the poor of all classes in the three years preceding 1838, 77; average on the permanent roll, 24|; average of those not on the permanent roll, 43. Average amount distributed among poor on the permanent roll, L. 46, 19s.; average amount distributed among poor not on the permanent roll, L.14, 16s.; average amount distributed for support of lunatics, L.14. Average amount from church collections, L. 55; from other voluntary contributions, L.11, 11s.; from mortifications, mortcloth dues, &c. L. 24, 10s.

January 1840.

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