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

,--------. --------- MINISTER.

I.—Topography and Natural History.

Name.—The name of the parish is said to be of Gaelic origin, and to signify "the King's house." Tradition bears that a religious house once existed near the site of the present church.

Mountain ranges, &c.—At the westerly extremity of the parish there is a range of high grounds,—the continuation of the Auchmedden ridge, and of those high grounds which, crossing the adjoining parish of New Deer, form a part of the eminences skirting the western extremity of Buchan. Those eminences in the lower part of the parish seem, in fact, to be continuations of the Hill of Mormond, distant only about three miles.

Meteorology.—In the spring and summer months, a dense cloud, charged often with the electric fluid, is frequently seen hovering over that range of highlands terminating in the Auchmedden ridge, and, after hanging in collected masses for a while, it generally breaks into two divisions, one of which branches off in a southeasterly direction towards Mormond, the other traversing the waters of the Moray Frith,—each dissipating itself in copious falls of rain.

Hydrography.— We can boast of many and valuable springs, copious, perennial, salubrious, spread abroad with a lavish hand through all the parish, and adapted to the necessary wants and accommodations of the people. Many of them are of a tonic mineral description, impregnated more or less with carbonate of iron. There are two streamlets, — the one running south-east, in the upper part of the parish, is one of the tributaries of the river Ugie, which flows into the sea near to the town of Peterhead; but, so long as it continues with us, it is but a puny stream, flowing generally with a sluggish pace. The other streamlet has one or two of its fountains on the eastern side of the elevated grounds which bisect the parish. In a natural amphitheatre, scooped out, it may be, by some convulsion of the elements, and protected from every blast that blows, there bubbles forth from a grassy knoll a most copious stream, denominated the Mourning or Murnan Well, the waters of which, in conjunction with other streams, finally merge in those waters which constitute the rivulet of Philorth, as it falls into the sea about two miles south of Fraserburgh.

Geology and Mineralogy.—It may be said that the course of the discoverable strata lies in a north-easterly direction, and that its dip is at an angle of about 45°. The ascertained strata are either composed of gravel or sand, or clay, sometimes pure, sometimes mixed, and it is, for the most part, imbedded on a basis of granite rock. There is a species of rotten rock of the clayish mica kind, held together by a cement of crusted ferruginous sand, arising in the adjoining parish of Pitsligo, entering this one on its northern frontier, opposite to the church, traversing it in a southerly direction for about a mile, dipping occasionally, and finally losing itself at the base of one of the eminences which protrudes from the mountainous range formerly mentioned. This species of rock, unfit for any kind of building, is adapted solely for road-making ; but the difficulty and consequent expense of quarrying render it ineligible even for this purpose. On this strata of rock, however, is deposited the richest land in the parish.

On the eastern extremity of the parish, there is a limestone quarry, formerly wrought, but now disused, owing to the difficulty and expense of extracting the under-ground accumulating water. This vein of limestone is only a small branch of that great strata which, originating in the rocks on the shores of the Moray Frith, close by Kinnaird's Head, traverses, in a south-westerly direction, parts of the parishes of Fraserburgh, Rathen, and Tyrie, dipping occasionally, underlying the foundations of Mormond, exhibiting itself afterwards at the lime quarries of Strichen, and pursuing still its way in the same direction far into the interior of the country. The breadth of the strata of limestone, from the place where it manifests itself in this parish to where it terminates in Rathen, may be estimated to be about three or four miles.

The great strata of granite rocks pursue the same south-westerly course. The stone itself is composed of quartz, shorl, fel-spar, and mica,—the last, however, in very minute quantities. It is of a pale-grayish hue. Examples of it are found in all shades of formation, from the loose and uncompressed to the closely packed and the firmly-cemented blocks, capable of receiving the finest polish, and adapted for the most durable buildings. Occasional blocks of granite are discoverable in every valley; but they most frequently appear to form the frame-work on which are deposited all the superincumbent strata of the mountainous range bisecting the parish, and also the greater part of the massy plains, &c. of the upper part. The granite quarries which have been opened, furnish blocks of about ten tons weight; but what farther sizes might be procured it is impossible to say, without deeper excavations than what have been hitherto made. The stones already procured have been obtained with comparative ease, and consequently with comparatively little expense. From these quarries have been taken the materials for building great part of the dressed work of the pier of the harbour of Fraserburgh, and for the ornamental work of the modern building's of that town, as well as of those in our more immediate neighbourhood. Such a trade, if we may call it a trade, has been a source of some revenue to the proprietor, and to several industrious artisans and labourers; and, as long as the facility of transportation, furnished by means of the adjoining turnpike road to Fraserburgh, exists, combined with the little cost in clearing away the superincumbent rubbish or soil, and the easiness of quarrying, and the little expense of dressing, owing to the comparative softness of the stone when newly quarried,—so long will, in all probability, such a source of revenue to the proprietor continue. Iron undoubtedly we have; but not in sufficient quantity to render it a profitable speculation to embark in the process of smelting it.

Mossy soils we have in vast abundance. With a few solitary exceptions, these are confined to one continuous plain, measuring about three miles long by two and a half or three miles broad. They not only supply fuel, but are capable of being converted into productive land.

This parish seems, from the nature of its soil, to be adapted not so much for a grazing district, as for the production of oats, its staple, nay, almost sole species of grain, and for the growth of tur-nips and potatoes, which, in favourable years, it grows in great abundance. A powerful auxiliary to the other kinds of manure which our vicinity to the sea enables us to command, has been found in the bone manure, which is suited to the generality of our soil, and of which a considerable quantity is annually imported A vast quantity of herring refuse and of sea-dogs, (the livers of the last of which are converted, by the thrifty farmers' wives, into oil for the replenishing of their winter's evening lamps), are also annually brought into the parish.

Botany.—Our plantations are few. Placed in small, irregular insulated patches or in narrow continuous beltings (amounting, however, in whole to about 270 acres, 40 of which have been planted since 1826, at the rate of 7000 trees per acre, thus giving at an average, since 1826, 21,000 trees annually), in the vicinity of New Pitsligo, in the upland district of this parish, exposed, from their elevated and unprotected position, to every blast that blows, yet the trees have made tolerable progress. They prove that ash, plane, fir, aller, mountain-ash, the constituent trees of these plantations, are fitted to grow in this country.

II.—Civil History.

Eminent Men.—The first individual connected with this parish, where history and fate possesses any degree of public notoriety and interest, is Mr Forbes of Boyndlie, a scion of the noble family of Pitsligo, the first possessor and builder of the first house of Boyndlie, and who was killed at the battle of Craibstone in 1575.

2. His descendant, John Forbes of Boyndlie, was taken prisoner on the 12th September 1644 at the battle of Aberdeen, by the celebrated Montrose; but was liberated shortly after on his parole of honour, to return in case he could not, along with his liberated fellow-prisoner, by the united influence with the Covenanters, procure the liberty of the young Laird of Drum, and also under the provisionary generous clause, not to return in case his captor should sustain a defeat before the stipulated period. With a spirit worthy of a man and a Christian, he, like Regulus, did return, upon finding insuperable obstacles in the way of the liberation of the stipulated prisoner. And when others, frightens by the apprehended dangers and privations of a winter's retreat, and perhaps a winter's campaign, amidst the wilds and fastnesses of the Highland mountains, were in crowds deserting Montrose, he nobly abode in the camp, determined to brave all things rather than break his plighted word. It is pleasing to record, that this honourable man died in peace and in honour at an advanced age, at his chateau in Cremar.

3. Mr John Forbes, second son of Sir William Forbes of Mo-nymusk, resided at Pitfichie near the Hill of Bennachie, but purchased the estate of Ladysford in this parish ; was out in 1715; occupied the official station of collector of cess for the rebel army; was, after the issue of that ill-planned and timidly executed enterprise, obliged to leave his native country, embarking, after having collected what property he had time to realize, on board of a vessel bound for Holland ; but was heard of no more. Suspicions arose that he had not received fair play at the hands of the crew, as one of them was seen a few years after, wearing a part of the dress which an aged and attached servant of the family recognized as having once belonged to her master. He left a widow, with a family of ten or more children ; but He who provides for the widow and the fatherless in their afflictions, raised up friends and protectors to them, and, in course of time, one of his daughters was married to her cousin, Sir William Forbes, and from her is descended the present family of the Baronet of Pitsligo. [There is in the possession of his great-grandson, the present proprietor of Boynd-lie, the original cess-book which he used for levying the cess-money. It is neatly written, is well preserved, is a curiosity in its kind, contains some curious statistics of contract between the ancient and present proprietary and estates of the county. It proceeds on the principle of making an enemy pay double of what is exacted from a friend,—for those who were against what it would account the good cause are represented as charged double cess. There is a picture of him and of his wife in the pre-sent Mouse of Boyndlie.]

4. Connected with this parish, though not by birth or burial, yet certainly by occasional residence, was the venerable and attainted Lord Pitsligo, whose memory is still cherished, and whose hair-breadth escapes from the hands of his pursuers are dwelt upon with enthusiasm by those dwelling amidst the scenes of his wanderings and perils,—whose piety is attested by the thoughts which he has left,—and whose character and history are embodied in that interesting record which his relative, Lord Medwyn, has recently drawn up and made public.

5. Connected, too, with this parish by property are the Earl of Aberdeen, Lord Saltoun, and the late Sir William Forbes, the author of the Life of Beattie. These are, indeed, historical personages. The annals of diplomacy and of state policy will immortalize the name of the first; the history of the campaigns of the Peninsula under Sir John Moore and the Duke of Wellington, and the defence of Huguemont at Waterloo, will transmit the name of the second with honour to posterity; while deeds of active benevolence and of extensive public spiritedness will embalm the memory of the last in the grateful remembrance of present and future generations. [It may be here noticed, that Major George Phillips, a descendant of the above-mentioned Forbesses of Boyndlie, born and educated in this parish, and, after going to India, and serving there in a most gallant manner, and after realizing a considerable fortune, died there about the year 1806, bequeathing the munificent sum of L. 600 Sterling, the interest whereof to be expended for the behoof of the poor of this parish. It may be noticed also that William Anderson, who occupied the humble sphere of a blacksmith in this parish, bequeathed to the parish the sum of L.40 Sterling, the interest where to be expended on the education of poor children.]

Land-owners.—Two of the chief land-owners, the Earl of Aberdeen and Lord Saltoun, have been already mentioned. The only other two are Sir John Stuart Forbes and Mr Forbes of Boyndlie,—men who, by the benevolence of their hearts, by the public spirit they manifest, have done, and are doing, an immense deal of good to the community at large.

Antiquities.—A few years ago, there was standing, in the immediate vicinity of the church, a sort of circular mound, called the Moat, the work of a very remote era, but at what time, or for what purpose erected, we do not pretend to conjecture.

Barrows or tumuli we possess, as well as other minor indications of battles and frays fought in our neighbourhood. Connected apparently with the authenticated coast-wise line of march of the Danish army, though partially diverging from, but afterwards converging to their line of march through the fastnesses of Auchmed-den to the bay of Gamrie, our principal tumuli seem to point out the scenes of successive conflicts and defeats of the retreating army, and to mark the graves of some slaughtered Danish or Scottish chieftain.

About three miles farther west, almost in the entrance of the defiles of Auchmedden, stands the Law Cairn. This has been partially explored for the purpose of antiquarian research, but nothing was discovered. Not far distant, however, there were found, about twenty-two years ago, in the course of quarrying some outlying stones, remains of ancient armour, probably Roman.

In recently digging up the foundation of the old church, (a building most unquestionably existing long previous to 1598, the oldest date legible on its oldest pews), there was found deposited in the north-eastern corner, as the foundation stone, a rough unhewn shapeless mass of blue clayish-mica-stone, with a hieroglyphic or other figure, which has puzzled the conjectures of the most learned of our antiquarians.

Modern Buildings.—The only mansion-houses in the parish are those of Bovndlie, and the old mansion-houses of Ladysford and of Tillanamols.



Agriculture.—Vast, indeed, have been the improvements made within the last twenty years, in the reclaiming of waste, and the draining of wet lands. These improvements have been carried on by almost every farmer, but the principal have been the result of the exertions of a number of poor families, located on various pendicles of what was once a vast and unproductive surface of moor and moss. An extensive colony of these are in our immediate neighbourhood, and we have had many opportunities of witnessing their exertions. The parents of twenty-nine families, containing 156 individuals, who would have otherwise been held down in the most abject misery, or been eventually thrown as burdens on their respective parishes, have been empowered, under the blessing of God, to bring up their families in comparative comfort, and to look forward to comparative independence under the approaching infirmities of age. It must be confessed, that the experiment of this cottage or portionary allocation is as yet in its infancy, and its ultimate results cannot yet be properly foreseen. One great means of guarding against any apprehended evils would be, to extend the duration of the present leases, (nineteen years, and all leases for that period are by far too short, and are obstacles to improvement), to three nineteen years at the least, taking care, however, at the expiry of each nineteen years, to secure the interest of the landlord by a new valuation of the land, at a rent to be affixed by two scientific agriculturists mutually chosen.

The general course of rotation is a seven years' shift, and, in some solitary instances, an eight years' one, and these are carried out with spirit upon the most approved system of husbandry, with the exception of liming and plough trenching, previous to the preparation for turnips. Liming, however, is not so necessary, from the superabundance of hot dung brought up, bulk for bulk, in exchange for peats from the sea towns, with which most of our lands are saturated, and also from the adoption and application of bone manure. It may be stated, as an exemplification of the vast advantage attendant on plough trenching, that one of our proprietors has gone over the whole of his farm, consisting of 150 acres, with a trench-plough drawn by six horses, breaking up the soil to the depth of thirteen inches at an average, piercing through the iron-bound pan, and following up this process with a sufficiency of lime, and an extra quantity of dung, and, by these means, he has rendered his farm even more than doubly productive, and has superseded the necessity of manuring his lea-fields previous to ploughing them for cropping. From seeing the benefits resulting from this procedure others have been induced to follow his example as far as their means permitted.

A Horticultural Society was established a short time ago, at New Pitsligo, under the auspices of Sir John S. Forbes, and it has excited a considerable emulation among the villagers and tenantry; and the beneficial effects are attested by the superior mode in which their gardens are now kept, and the superior crops of cabbages and turnips, &c raised on their fields. Many of our farmers have joined the Buchan Agricultural Society, and some of them have been successful at the different competitions for seed oats.

Many of our farmers are in the practice of exporting their grain and cattle, directly on their own adventure, to the London markets, and have been successful in their speculations; and one individual amongst us, (Mr Catto, at Mains of Tyrie), has dealt very considerably and successfully of late, in the purchase of grain for the London and other markets.

V.—Parochial Economy.

Market-Town.— The nearest market-town is Fraserburgh, situated to the east about five miles.

Village,—New Pitsligo is the only village in the parish. Placed as it is with its two main streets, lined with rows of neatly built houses, (one of its streets extending fully a mile in length,) on the brow of the hill of Tirlundie, and partly surrounded with occasional small beltings of wood, or with scattered patches of plantations, it presents, when viewed from certain spots, rather a pleasing and picturesque appearance. In former times, and in the days of Lord Pitsligo, its present site and the adjacent cultivated grounds were occupied by two or three farm-houses, with their patches of miserably cultivated fields, scattered here and there on the moor and moss, and, from its connection with the history of that unfortunate nobleman, it presents a scene of historical interest and associations. It was only about the year 1790 that its ancient name of Cavoch was transformed into its modern one of New Pitsligo, and that the former external aspect of the scene around it began to change, for about that year the village was founded; and it has, through the persevering industry of its inhabitants, been increasing year after year, till it has reached its present population of 1262. One great cause of its increase has been the cheapness of fuel furnished from the inexhaustible mass of moss around it, and the attachment to every feu of a few acres of arable ground, with abundance of reclaimable land given by the proprietor on a lease of two nineteen years, thus affording from the produce of their land the means of subsistence to their families, and tempting many an industrious labourer and mechanic to settle there, from the prospect of steady employment, and an adequate remuneration for his toil. In fact, its present inhabitants, with the exception of ninety employed in the manufacture of cotton and of linen cloth, derive their livelihood from the produce of their small allotments of land, or from undertaking agricultural jobs to their neighbours, or the farmers in the adjoining districts. Of late years, the proprietor has ceased to give off new feus, and therefore the village may be said, independent of other causes, to have reached its greatest size. Its police is under the superintendence of the proprietor's factor.

Means of Communication.—The only post-office in the parish is in the village of New Pitsligo; and there is a daily mail-bag dispatched from it. There are about eight miles of turnpike road in the parish.

Ecclesiastical State.— Situated about three miles from the east-ern end of the parish, about seven from its western, two and a-half or three miles from its southern, and about 200 yards from its northern, the parish church could not have well accommodated all within the bounds of the united parish; but now that the people in the upper district have been detached from it, it is well enough situated for the comfort and convenience of all in the lower district. It was built in 1800; is a neat and substantial edifice, kept in admirable repair; made to contain with ease 400 persons, allowing eighteen inches to each individual, and its sittings are all rent free. The public benefactions were bequeathed by Major Phillips and William Anderson. The manse was built in 1763. and was augmented in 1809. The glebe measures 4¾ acres including site of manse, offices, and garden, and may be worth about L.8 or L.9 Sterling. The stipend is L.150.

For the accommodation of the people in the village of New Pitsligo and the adjacent lands, whom the distance of six miles from the parish church precluded from regular and convenient attendance, and from the benefit of a constant pastoral superintendence, a Chapel of Ease was erected by the proprietor in the above village; and a district of the parish, amounting to about four miles long, by two and a half or three miles broad, was attached to it. And, in accordance with the recent Act of the General Assembly, the district assigned to this Chapel of Ease has been erected into a parish quoad spiritualia. This Chapel of Ease contains about 400. The stipend of the minister amounts to L.80 Sterling, and is paid by the proprietor, who has also given a manse and a glebe of about 18 acres. One Episcopal chapel, (a new and elegant building in the Gothic style), capable of containing about 260, has been recently erected by the proprietor, and its clergyman's stipend, L.80 Sterling, is paid by the same, who has also furnished a portion of land for a glebe.

We have no Dissenting places of worship in the parish, save that of the Baptists; who, however, only occasionally meet in the Society's Hall, in New Pitsligo. Divine worship is generally well attended.

Education.—Scattered as our schools are over the parish, they are easily accessible to all. Two are parochial. One of these, situate beside the parish church, has the maximum salary, and in addition, the master receives L.2 Sterling (the interest of Anderson's bequest) for educating some poor children. The other is in New Pitsligo, and has the minimum salary, inclusive of the supposed annual value or rent of a dwelling-house and garden given by the proprietor of the village. A school is established at New Pitsligo by the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge; has a salary of L.5 Sterling from the Society, and L. 10 Sterling paid by the sisters of Sir John S. Forbes, with a dwelling-house, commodious school-room, and garden given by the proprietor. About 120 scholars attend Sabbath schools.

Poor and Parochial Funds.—The average annual amount of contributions during the last three years for the relief of the poor may be stated as under: church collections, including L. 2 Sterling regularly given by Mr Forbes of Boyndlie, as his probable collection if he was attending the church (for he is an Episcopalian), L. 61, 18s. 8½d.; the average interest of L. 467 Sterling, lodged in the hands of the Banking Company in Aberdeen, L. 12, 4s. 1d.; the average interest of L. 613, 18s. 4d. bank three per cent. annuities (Major Phillips's legacy), L. 17, 15s. 8d.; average amount of mortcloth money and penalties, L. 6, 5s.; total, L. 98, 3s. 5½d. That sum has been divided in proportions suitable, as far as can be judged, to their respective necessities, among 87 poor persons, 69 of whom were on the ordinary and permanent poor's roll, and who have 18 dependents on them; while other 18 are only occasionally supplied with aid. It must be adverted to, that almost all are able to do something for themselves by means of their personal industry, and that there is a silent active spirit of charity abroad in the parish, which contributes to eke out a subsistence to the necessitous. There is also a very considerable relief afforded to many poor families by the distribution from the proprietor's girnal at New Pitsligo of seventy-two bolls of meal, at the rate of one-half peck per week to each individual. This charity, furnished by the liberality of Sir John S. Forbes and his ancestors, is, however, confined to indigent and decayed feuars of that village.

Fairs, Inns, Alehouses, &c.—Four cattle-markets are annually held at New Pitsligo, and each of these uniformly takes place in the months of March, May, August, and September. A fortnightly corn-market has been recently established there. There are two respectable inns and six alehouses in New Pitsligo..

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