Premnay, County of Aberdeen, OSA, Vol. XVI, 1795

of Premnay.

By a Friend to Statistical Inquiries;
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Origin of the Name, etc.

PREMNAY is situated in the county and Synod of Aberdeen, and in the district and presbytery of Garioch. Its name is derived from the Gaelic. It is bounded on the S. by the mountain of Bennochie, which separates it from the parish of Keig; on the W. by the parish of Leslie; on the N. by Kinnethmont and Insch; and on the E. by the parish of Oyne.

Extent. - Premnay, exclusive of the uncultivated and uninhabited part of it on Bennochie, is a long stripe of land, lying along the water of Gady, (which runs through it), and is about four miles long by one and an half miles broad.

It contains nearly 3000 acres, (exclusive of the mountain of Bennochie), about 2000 of which has been made arable, and [638] nearly 1000 of it limed, inclosed, and planted with hedge-rows on one estate.

Soil. - The soil is various. On the banks of the Gady, in general, it is very rich; on the side of the mountain of Bennochie it is much poorer. In several places a strong clay; and on some small knolls or hills on the north side of Gady, a sandy loam, which in some places is shallow, and easily hurt in dry seasons, but is in general both early and fertile.

Mountain. - The mountain of Bennochie is one of the largest in the county of Aberdeen. It is nearly 1000 feet above the level of the sea, and about 750 feet above the level of the water of Gady, opposite to the church of Premnay, and its base may cover an area of about 4000 acres, the greatest part of which is unarable. The name Bennochie is said to signify, Hill with the paps, from its having several tops. It is a royal forest, though no trees are now raised, excepting a few on the skirts of the mountain. It appears from the Laurus Lesheana, that it was formerly fortified; and the remains of a stone wall are still standing near its highest top. It supplies the inhabitants of the neighbouring parishes with peats for fuel; but in rainy seasons it is very difficult of access. It contains stones of very fine granite, which are much esteemed, and carried several miles.

River. - The small rivulet Gady, produces very good trout, but no salmon. It is useful in turning different cornmills in this and the neighbouring parishes.

Manure. - The only manure, except the dung raised on the farms, is lime brought from Aberdeen, a distance of [639] 24 miles. But if the projected canal were carried to Insch, it would be easily within the reach of the farmers of this parish.

Agriculture. - About 24 years ago the greatest part of this parish was uninclosed and unimproved. But at that period, Mr Gordon, late proprietor of the principal estate, began to improve his lands on a great scale. Carts from Aberdeen, loaded with lime, were hired to Inverury, a distance of 14 miles, and Mr Gordon's own horses and oxen went to Inverury, and brought the lime from that town to Premnay. The fields were inclosed and planted with hedge-rows, and in general were thoroughly limed.

Proper farm-houses, and other necessary buildings were erected; and the lands, after being several years in the proprietor's own hands, were let to different farmers. The estate has since been sold at 60 years purchase of the old rent, before the improvements commenced. Yet the expence of improving the lands at such a distance from a sea-port, has hurt the fortune of the intelligent and public spirited gentleman who improved them. It may here be remarked, that it is more prudent for a landed gentleman to improve one farm, and then let it, and afterwards to improve the other farms in succession, than to attempt improving the whole at once. Labourers cannot easily be had; the price of labour is suddenly raised; the difficulty of hoeing large quantities of turnips, of cutting down and stacking large quantities of hay, and of harvesting large quantities of grain in rainy, or in late seasons, becomes very great, especially where many of the labourers must travel two or three miles to and from their work; and a gentleman improves at a greater expence than what is incurred by a common farmer, who is his own overseer.


Besides, as the market price of every commodity is regulated by the proportion between those who buy and those who sell, when his improvements are finished, a gentleman, who has his whole estate in the market at once, cannot expect the same rent for it, as if he let every other year a newly improved farm to a practical farmer. Perhaps the most advantageous way in which an estate can be improved, is to give the farmer encouragement, and even assistance to improve it. For example, if the necessary quantity of lime cannot be afforded by the farmer, the proprietor may give as much lime as is wanted, and ask for his payment a gradual increase of rent. The writer of this article knew a gentleman who raised his rents from 15 s. to L. 2 an acre in this manner. He gave his farmers 50 bolls of lime to each acre. This cost him at that time about L. 5, 5 s. In three years the additional rise of rent indemnified him; and yet his farmers paid their rents regularly; and one of them received L. 11 from his landlord, or the rent of 5 1/2 acres, for two acres of sown grass. The only difficulty here is to find tenants in whom one can confide.

Population. - The population of this parish has fluctuated very much. In Dr Webster's account it was 448. About 14 years ago it was as low as 260, after the old farmers were removed. Three years ago it was 471 examinable persons, or about 550 of all ages; and at present it is only about 450.

Manufactures. - Small quantities of lint are raised for private families; but the knitting of stockings is the only manufacture of any consequence.


Proprietors, etc. - Of these there are four, but none of them at present reside in the parish. The rent of the parish amounts nearly to L. 1000.

Ecclesiastical State. - Mr James Douglas is the present minister. His stipend, by a late decreet, is worth L. 100 Sterling. Colonel Hay of Rannes is patron. The church was lately rebuilt, and the manse repaired and enlarged.

Character of the People, and Miscellaneous Observations. - They are in general sober, honest, and industrious. Where an estate is newly peopled, the farmers cannot be supposed to be so much attached to the soil, or to the proprietor, as where they have resided on the lands from their infancy. And it sometimes happens, that a stranger will take an improved farm, with a design to scourge it. This cannot be justified by the laws of morality. On the other hand, an indulgent landlord is respected by his old tenants; and whenever the rents of an estate are raised beyond a certain sum, the proprietor seldom gains so much in point of real interest, as he loses in point of respectability of character. In the district of Garioch, nominal rents have produced bad payments and dispirited farmers. A little farther advancement in the knowlege of farming, and a little more indulgence from the proprietor, will, it is hoped, soon produce in a country naturally fertile, rents that are regularly paid, and farmers who are enterprising and independent.

[642] “Not part of Premnay”


Premnay, County of Aberdeen, NSA, Vol. XII, 1845

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Name, Extent, and Boundaries.-The name of this parish is said to be derived from the Gaelic. In some old registers, it is written Premanal. Its greatest extent from east to west is about 4 miles, and from north to south about 4 1/2 miles; but its average breadth of arable land from north to south does not exceed 2 miles. It lies on the north side of Benachie, and from 25 to 29 miles north-west from Aberdeen, the county town. It is bounded on the east and north-east, by the parish of Oyne; on the north and north-west, by Insch; on the west, by Leslie; and on the south, by Keig.

Topographical Apperance. - Although the surface of this parish is cultivated, it is considerably diversified by little hills, having a few acres on the top of each covered with whins, the soil there being rocky and too poor to admit of cultivation. These hills occupy the centre of the parish, having on all sides extensive fields of arable land sloping down to their bases. In the valley between these hills and Benachie, the Gady runs from the west to east, [693] having the acclivities on both side, well cultivated, and interspersed in some places with hedgerows, which, in summers have a very lively and agreeable appearance. The parish church stands on the north side of the Gady, and about a mile from the east end of the parish. Opposite to the church on the south side of the Gady, TIllymuick rises, a bleak, lumpish hill, of no great elevation or extent, having the lower part of the north side of it cultivated.

Still farther southward, rises the mountain of Benachie, the west end of which lies within the boundaries of this-parish. Although this mountain is only about 1500 feet above the level of the sea, yet, as it rises rather abruptly from its base, and as there are no other hills of much elevation in its neighbourhood, it forms a very conspicuous and rather interesting object in this district of country.

From its tops or paps, of which it has several, may be seen with the naked eye, in a clear day, the German Ocean, for many miles along the eastern coast, the Moray Frith, and the Caithness hills beyond it. The Brindy hill stretches along to the westward from the foot of Benachie, cutting off a small portion of the arable land which lies on the south side of it from the rest of the parish, and forms part of the ridge of hills which separates the district of Garioch from the vale of Alford, The parish is rather destitute of growing timber, there being only three or four small plantations within it, and these of no great value.

There are, however, some fine old beeches at Licklyhead, the old family seat of the estate of Premnay.

Soil and Climate. - The soil on the south side of the Gady is various. On the slope along the base of Tillymuick and Benachie, the soil is poor and on a hard and retentive bottom. On the slope along the base of the Brindy, it is on a clay bottom chiefly on a rocky or gravelly bottom, and, except in very dry seasons, is very productive, and well adapted for the turnip husbandry. The climate is dry and early. The extent of arable land in the parish is about 3200 acres imperial.

Hydrography. - The two principal streams connected with the parish are the Gady and the Shevock. The former enters the parish near the church of Leslie, on the west, and continues its course for a distance of about four miles to the eastern extremity, and receive a number of small streams as it passes along the base of Benachie, which swell it very rapidly in a thaw and in time of rain. The Shevock runs along the north side of the parish for [694] nearly a mile from west to east, and to this extent separates it from the parts of Insch. Both are reckoned good trouting streams.

Mineralogy. - Benachie and Tillymuick abound is red granite, suitable for all kinds of building purposes, which, being light and easily wrought, is extensively used throughout the adjoining district. No quarries have as yet been wrought for any considerable length of time. About two hundred yards west from the church, is found a bed of serpentine rock, which may be traced west-ward through this and several contiguous parishes. Limestone rock has been found in two places, and some attempts have been made to burn it for manure but hitherto with little success.

There were, at one time, extensive mosses on Benachie. These are now, greatly exhausted; but they are still resorted to for fuel by the inhabitants of this and the neighbouring parishes. Besides these, there were several other mosses in the low grounds, butthey are now almost entirely exhausted, and the surface; nearly all brought into cultivation. In the east end of the parish, there is a bed of very fine clay, which, when wrought into mortar and dried, is almost as white as lime. In most of the little hills, which have been mentioned as occupying the centre of the parish, is to be found a coarse kind of rock, which answers well for metalling roads and filling drains, and, if quarried on an extensive scale, might also be available for stone fences.


Land-owners. - The parish belongs to four proprietors, all non-resident. The whole valued rent of the parish is L. 1878 Scots money, of which the valued rent of the estate of Premnay, belong
ing to Harry Leith Lumsden, Esq. of Auchindoir, is L.1082, 13s. 4d.,
that of Edingarrock, Mains of Leslie, Waulkmill and Edderlick, belonging to Sir Andrew Leith Hay of Rannes, L.316, 13s. 4d.;

that of the lands belonging to Alexander Abercrombie, Esq. of Rothney, L.266, 13s. 4d.; and that of Overhall, belonging to Theodore Gordon Esq., L.212.

The real rent of the whole parish is about L.3000 Sterling.

Mansion houses. - There is a mansion house at Licklyhead, built in 1629, which inhabited, but much dilapidated. There is also a mansion-house at Overhall, which is inhabited and in tolerable repair.

Parochial Registers. - The parochial registers commence in 1723, but are not complete.



It would appear that the population of this parish has fluctuaed very much within the last hundred years. The former Statistical report states that "in Dr Webster's account, it was 448.
Fourteen years ago, it was as low as 260, after the old farmers were removed. Three years ago, it was 471 examinable persons, or about 550 of all ages; and at present it is only about 450."
Since the date of last Account the population has gradually increased. In 1831, it was 625 ; it is now 691.

The people are sober, honest, and industrious, and regular in their attendance on the public ordinances of religion.


The males are chiefly employed in agriculture, and also many of the females at certain seasons of the year. About thirty years ago, such of the females as were not engaged in agricultural pursuits were chiefly employed in spinning flax. The perfection of machinery has superseded this branch of industry. This was succeeded by the knitting of stockings and jackets,-in which employment many of the females are still engaged. But the allowance for this kind of work has been of late so much reduced, that a woman, labouring constantly, cannot earn more than from 1s. to 1s. 6d. per week.

Servants are usually engaged by the half year; men at from L.4 to L.7; women at from L.1, 10s. to L.3 of wages, all with victuals and lodging.

Husbandry. - The husbandry pursued generally consists in rearing black cattle and a few sheep and horses, and in raising oats, bear, turnips, and potatoes. A seven years rotation of cropping is that which is commonly adopted, that is to say, the ground is allowed t lie three years in grass; two white crops are than taken; one green crop; and one of bear or oats, with grass seeds sown. Leases are usually granted for nineteen years. The farm steadings are mostly covered with thatch; only fourteen dwelling houses are slated. Little has been done as yet in the way of enclosing fields with stone fences. Thomas Gordon, Esq. already mentioned, when improving his estate, laid out a considerable sum in raising earthen fences and planting hedges; but these having been long neglected, are now quite useless as inclosure. The average rent of outfield land may be stated at L.1 per Scotch acre, and of infield at from L.2 to L.2 10s. per Scotch are; and some croft land is let at L.2, 15s. per Scotch acre.

Manufactures. - There are three mills for the manufacture of [696] grain in the parish, one on the Shevock, one on the Gady at Auchleven, and one at Gariochsford, the southern extremity of the parish. At the village of Auchleven, there are three engines for carding wool, and two spinning jennies, and the owner manufactures woollen cloth on a small scale.


Means of Communication. - The parish is intersected by two public roads, which cross each other near its centre. The one leads from Insch to Keig, and crosses the Gady at Auchleven, by neat bridge of two arches, erected in 1836, at a cost of L.70. The other road leads from the upper district of the country to Inverury and Aberdeen. In 1824, this road was made turnpike from the church to Mill of Carden, where it joins the great north road from Inverness to Aberdeen, and affords easy access to the canal basin at Inverury, where lime and bones, for manure, and coals are to be had at all seasons, and where granaries have lately been erected for storing grain to be carried to Aberdeen by the canal. The distance from the church of Premnay to the canal basin is eleven miles. Another branch of turnpike road has lately, been made, leading from Kennethmont to Inverury ; passing through the north side of this parish, it joins the former road a mile below the church.

Ecclesiastical State. - The church, which was built in 1792, affords accommodation for 360 persons, and, with additional galleries, could be made to accommodate 120 more. The sittings are all free, with the exception of 60 in a gallery erected by the kirk-session, with consent of the heritors, in 1828. These sittings are let annually for behoof of the poor, at a rent of from 6d. to 1s. 6d. each. The number of communicants is usually about one-half of the whole population. The number of Dissenters in the parish does not exceed 15 grown up persons of both sexes, exclusive of their children.

The manse is very old ; date of building not known. It received an addition, with repairs, upwards of fifty years ago, and also some repairs seventeen years ago. The glebe, including some pasture land, and sites of the manse and offices, extends to about six Scotch acres, and may be estimated at L.12 of yearly value. The teinds of the parish are exhausted, and the stipend is paid, partly in money, and partly in victual. The money stipend is L.95 13.s 6 2/12d. The victual stipend consist of 71 bolls, 1 peck, and 1 lippie of meal, and 14 bolls, 1 firlot, 8 pecks, and 3 lippies of bear. The patronage of the church and parish belongs to Sir Andrew Leith Hay of Rannes.


Education. - There is only one parochial school in the parish.

The schoolmaster's salary is L.27; allowances for garden, L.2, 2s. 9 1/4d; mortification, L.1, 11s. 8d.; amount of school-fees, about L.12. The teacher participates also in the Dick Bequest. The average number of children, that attend school in summer may be stated at 30, and in winter at 50. The branches of education usually taught are, English reading and grammar, writing arithmetic, mathematics, book-keeping, geography, and Latin, the fees for which are very moderate. The schoolmaster's dwelling-house, which was, lately built, is ample and commodious. The school-room is too small.

Poor and Parochial Funds. - The number of regular paupers on the roll varies from 15 to 20, besides others who require occasional aid. The usual allowance to the former is at present 12s. per quarter, which must vary according to circumstances, - the available funds for the support of the poor arising chiefly from the interest of a bequest of L.1000 by the late Thomas Gordon, Esq. of Premnay. The amount of weekly collections at the church does not exceed L.10 annually, exclusive of occasional collections for charitable and religious purposes.

The temperate habits of the people may in no small degree be ascribed to the circumstance, that there is no licensed public house or inn for the sale of spirits within the parish, and only one merchant has a shop license for that purpose.

May 1842.

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