Skene

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NUMBER VII.

PARISH OF SKENE.

(COUNTY OF ABERDEEN.)

By the Rev. Mr JAMES HOGG.

Name, Situation, Soil, etc.

ACCORDING to tradition one of the progenitors of the present laird of Skene is said to have killed a boar that endangered the King's life, Malcolm Kenmore, with a knife or dagger, called in Gaelic, a Skian, and received as reward the greater part of the lands in the parish. Hence the name of the family of Skene, and that of the parish. The parish is situated in the county of Aberdeen, and lies from 6 to 12 measured miles N. W. from the town. It is in the Synod and Presbytery of Aberdeen. Its extent in circumference is nearly from 20 to 24 measure miles. The form is nearly oval; the length is 6, and the breadth from 3 to 4 measured miles. It is bounded on the E. by the parishes of Newhills and Peterculter; on the S. by Peterculter; on the W. by Echt and Cluny; on the N. W. by Kemnay; and on the N. by Kintore and Kinellar. The appearance of the country is hilly and rocky. The nature of the soil is various; the predominant quality is that of gravel. Some spots are fertile enough, others very barren. The air is sufficiently dry and healthy. The most prevalent distempers are fevers. The parish abounds with mineral springs. These might be rendered serviceable in scorbutic [58] and scrophulous diseases; but they are rarely applied to for relief. The tendency which the lands have in general to minerals, operates to their disadvantage; being inimical to vegetation, and quickly consuming manure of every kind. There is a lake of considerable extent, the lake of Skene, about a measured mile in length, and something more than 3-4ths in breadth. It is visited, especially in winter, by duck, geese, and occasionally by swans; pike and eel in great abundance, and of considerable size are found in it.

The pike is good, I believe, at all seasons, it can be caught. The eel is in greatest perfection towards the end of September, and beginning of October, when it quits its summer-quarters, and proceeds down the burn which flows from the loch. A canal from the lake to Aberdeen, fit for navigating boats of an ordinary size, has been projected.

The scheme is certainly practicable, and would, if carried into execution, be of considerable advantage to this parish, and the country around it. A cut of about 16 measured miles in length, through a country sufficiently flat for the purpose, is all that would be required, without, I should think, the aid of almost a single lock. But the country must be farther advanced in cultivation, before such a scheme, I suspect, can or will be attempted. The hills are in general green and rocky. Moorstone and granite are to be found in abundance, and are used in building.

Population. - The population does not appear to be materially different from what it was 10 or 20 years ago. That it is on the increase, manifestly appears from the registers of marriages and baptisms, which have been accurately enough kept. The population, according to Dr Webster, was 1251. About the 1777, it was 1306. In 1787, it was 1256. The amount at present, is 1233, of which 572 are males, and 661 females. There are no towns nor [59] villages in the parish. The annual average of births from 1740 to 1750, was 39; from 1760 to 1770, 30 from 1780 to 1790, 19. The annual average of deaths from 1760 to 1770, 30; from 1780 to 1790, 25. The annual average of marriages from 1760 to 1770, 15; from 1780 to 1790, 9. The rule for ascertaining the population of any parish or district, (viz. by multiplying the number of births by 26, and the number of deaths by 36), does not appear to be at all accurate; nor has it nearly answered in any instance that I have heard of, where it has been tried.

The number of souls under 10 years of age, amounts to 235; from 10 to 20, is 274; from 20 to 50, is 460; from 50 to 70, is 158; above 70, and below 100, is 106. There were formerly 51 farms, or rather ploughs, in the parish.

The number is now diminished. A farmer's family, at an average, may consist of from 6 to 9 persons. There are 2 or 3 merchants, and 14 or 15 tradesmen. A very considerable proportion of the present inhabitants of the parish are natives of other parishes. The whole parish is of the Established Church, except 1 Seceder, and 9 Roman Catholics. The proportion of the annual births to the whole population is nearly as 1 to 65; of the annual mariages to the whole population a; 1 to 137; of the annual deaths to the whole population nearly as 1 to 49. At an average, each marriage may be said to produce from 4 to 6 children.

Productions Agriculture, etc. - On the lands belonging to Skene only have trees been hitherto raised. No plantations have till of late been made, and even that to no great extent,

nor improvements indeed of any kind, owing to invincible obstructions. Considering the great quantity of waste land in the parish, fit only for bearing trees, the neglect of cultivating them is much to be regretted. Trees of all kinds [60] tend greatly to beautify a country, and prove ultimately highly useful and profitable. Ash, plane, pine, common fir, willow, larix, are the kinds of trees which are principally produced. The larix is only of late introduced; and it seems to thrive better, and advance faster than any other tree. It is attended with this singular advantage too, that it thrives almost in any soil, and in any situation. Horses, black cattle, and sheep, are the animals which the parish produces. The number of cattle amounts to 1185; of sheep to 1205; of horses, to 199. The number of acres may possibly be, at an average, above 8000: Of these, about 2300 are called infield; about 3056 outfield; about 1640 pasture-ground; 534 moss, and about 520 moor-ground. The greater part of the arable ground is employed in raising oats and bear.

A middling farm will sow about 36 or 40 bolls of oats, and from 4 to 6 bolls of bear. Wheat, rye, hemp, flax, are not cultivated in this corner. About 64 acres only are employed in raising turnip and potatoes. The artificial grasses occupy about 490 acres. The parish for the most part supplies itself with articles of provision, and rarely imports or exports. Oats in general are sown towards the middle and end of April, and reaped in October. Bear is sown about the beginning of May, and reaped in general in September. Turnip are sown towards the end of June. About 135 or 140 acres are employed in raising forest-trees. The valued rent of the parish is L. 2500:16:8 Scots.-The neighbourhood of Aberdeen is advantageous to the parish, where it finds a ready market for every article of produce; and has but a moderate distance to carry lime, etc. in return, for manuring its fields. Among its disadvantages, are to be numbered its difficulty of improvement, (being in general full [61] of both rocks and stones, and a considerable part of it wet and spongy), the small progress which agriculture hath hitherto made, and I may add the quantity of moss in the parish. The last assertion may appear paradoxical. It is nevertheless true: For till the lands belonging to the town of Aberdeen were feued, the greater number of the subtenants, and many even of the tenants upon these lands, employed a great part of their time in digging and driving peat to Aberdeen, to the almost total neglect of the cultivation of their fields, without deriving in return any proportionable compensation.

Stipend, Church, Poor, etc. - The stipend, including the glebe, is from L. 70 to L. 80 Sterling. Mr Skene of Skene is patron. When the church was built nobody knows. It is very old, and has not been repaired for a long time past. The manse was built in the year 1779.

There are 4 heritors in the parish, two of whom only reside, and one of these but occasionally. The number of poor receiving alms is at present 24. The annual amount of the contributions for their relief is about L. 11, 10 s. Sterling. The produce of legacies is L. 6, 10 s. Sterling.

Wages, Fuel, etc. - The wages of a day-labourer, in husbandry and other work, are from 8 d. to 1 s.; a carpenter's from 1 s. to 1 s. 2 d.; a mason's about 1 s. 6 d.; a taylor's about 8 d. or 9 d.; a smith's about 1 s. 1 d. or 1 s. 2 d.

The only fuel used in the parish is peat: The mosses in this country, in general, are full of the roots of trees; an evident proof, that it has been formerly much more covered with wood than it is at present. The trees commonly found in our mosses are oak, alder, elm, ha-[62] zel and common fir; the oak predominates. The usual wages of male-servants are from L. 4 to L. 6 a-year, and of female-servants from L. 2 to L. 3 Sterling. The kind of plough, generally made use of, is the common Scotch plough. There are 140 carts; only 1 chaise.

Antiquities. - Besides 2 Druidical temples, pretty entire, and a number of barrows of tumuli, there are, on a moor covered with barrows, about an English mile S. of the church, evident traces of an encampment; near which is a very large collection of stones of a cairn.

About 3-4ths of a mile N. E. of the church, on the top of a hill, are the remains of a wall, which appear to have been formerly resorted to as a place of strength.

Miscellaneous Observations. - The spirit for industry seems at last to be rousing. Improvements of every kind are progressive in their nature, and require time and encouragement to bring them to any degree of perfection. They are on their progress northward; and he who shall accelerate it, well deserves to be accounted by his country a public benefactor. The state of the roads is only tolerable; there are no turnpikes, and the opinion of the country seems, in general, to be against them. Several bridges, that were very much wanted, have been erected. Inclosing of land is going on fast; the rent of infield land, in general, may, at an average, be 14 s. or 16 s. the acre; outfield about 2 s. 6 d. pasture 6 d. The rent of a middling farm may be, at an average, from L. 25 to L. 30 Sterling. The number of farms in the parish is diminishing. The improvements carrying on by one heritor, and the feuing, of late, of the lands belonging to the town of [63] Aberdeen, may be assigned as the cause; by which last, 31 ploughs have been reduced to 14; but the rents have considerably encreased, and a spirit of improvement has been excited. The situation of the parish in 1782 and 1783 was, as I have been informed, every wretched; and had not the peace, at that critical period, taken place, a famine, it is believed, must in this country in general, have, inevitably ensued. The pease, which had been bought up for the use of the fleet, were imported in great quantities in Scotland; and this supply, along with the laudable exertions of communities and individuals, proved, under Providence, the means of saving the country.

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

PARISH OF SKENE.

PRESBYTERY OF ADERDEEN, SYNOD OF ABERDEEN.

THE, REV. GEORGE MACKENZIE, MINISTER.

- - - - -

I.-TOPOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY.

Name. - The name of the parish is said to be derived from the Gaelic sgian, (or shian), "the dagger, or knife," that weapon having been used by the man who killed a wild boar which had attacked King Malcolm (Canmore) whilst hunting within the bounds of the parish, then supposed to be part of the King's forest. For which service, the same tradition says, the young Highlander, was rewarded by a grant of the whole land in the parish. *

* The reward offered by the King is said to have been a hound's chase or a hawk's flight. The latter was preferred.

Extent, &c. - The extent of the parish is nearly 6 miles by 4. It is bounded by the parishes of Kinellar, Newhills, Peterculter, Echt, Cluny, Kemnay, and Kintore.

Hydrography. - The Loch of Skene is nearly three miles in circumference, situated near the west boundary of the parish. Its greatest depth does not exceed twelve feet. It is supplied by several small streams, and is the reservoir which supplies water for one of the meal mills in the parish, and for the works of Messrs Hadden and Sons (a wool manufactory) at Garlogie mills.

Geology. - The soil is various, from the undulating nature of the grounds in the parish; several of the ridges (although they can scarcely be called hills) rising to a considerable height, and, with two excepted, which are planted, cultivated to the tops.

There are some rich and fertile fields; but few comparatively; the greater part of the land being either light or cold. The sub-soil is chiefly clay, part sand or gravel, and there is a considerable extent of moss.

There has been a great improvement, by means, of plantation, since the time of the last Statistical Account. Almost every he- [1097] ritor in the parish has planted to a greater or less extent on his property. There are some fine old trees around the house of Skene, particularly a chestnut tree on the lawn, and some silver- firs in the line of the west approach to the house.

II.-CIVIL HISTORY.

Land-owners. - There are fourteen heritors in the parish. Their lands are, Skene, Easterskene, Kirkville, Leddach, Blackhills, Kinmundy, Concraig, Auchenclech, Newton, Fiddie, Easter

Ord, Weste Ord, Easter Carnie, and Garlogie Mills. The original charter of the lands of Skene, granted by King Robert Bruce, * is still preserved. But the family and name of Skene, as lairds

of Skene, after long possessing the lands in the, direct line, became extinct in 1827. The lands are now in the management of trustees. The Earl of Fife is heir of entail.

* The expression in the charter is "confirmasse," seeming to imply that the king had renewed the grant of the lands, as formerly held.

Parochial Registers.-The oldest session record begins in the year 1676, and continues to 1696; the second, from 1709 to 1714; the third, from 1720 to 1744; after which year they have

been regularly kept to the present time. The register of baptisms begins in 1726, and has been carried on to the present time.

The register of marriages begins in 1756, and is continued to 1793; then there is a blank of twenty years; and from 1813, it has been regularly kept. A cash-book of the distribution of the

poor's finds has been kept from the year 1744; and minutes of the meetings of heritors, for the last ten years, have been regularly kept.

Mansion-Houses. - The House of Skene consists of two buildings united. The oldest has evidently stood for several centuries, from the style of building and strength of the walls. The date is not known. The other part of the house is comparatively modern,-the interior having been completed only a few years ago. There are some fine old paintings in the house, and an extensive library of books, upwards of 6000 volumes in ancient and modern literature, well arranged, and carefully kept.

The House of Easterskene, built by than present proprietor, William M'Combie, Esq., is a spacious modern building of the Tudor (or Elizabethan) style, surrounded by thriving young plantations and belts of wood, and commanding an, extensive prospect, having the Loch of Skene and the, lower range of the Grampians in the front view.

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Kirkville House, belonging to William Knowles, Esq. is of modern date, having been built within the last twenty years: it is in the cottage style.

Antiquities. - Besides the Druidical temples and tumuli noticed in the former Account, with the Hill of Keir, the top of which seems to have been well adapted for a watch-tower in former days, we have now to mention two Roman urns and a Roman sword, and the points of two spears, which have been lately found near the line of the Roman road, passing through the parish from the river Dee to the Don. These relics are in the possession of the proprietor of Kirkville, on whose lands they were found. Among the antiquities may also be noticed some valuable manuscripts in the library at Skene House, beautifully written previous to the invention of printing; and, not less valuable to the proprietors of the lands of Skene, the identical shian by which the lands were won, said to be in the possession of a relative of the family. A stone, * bearing the inscription, "Drum stone, Harlaw, 1411," stands on a height upon the lands of Easterskene.

* It is said that Mr Irvine, the laird of Drum, rested on this stone, (his men drawn up in line near by,) whilst on his march to the field of Harlaw, where he fell fighting hand to hand with M'Lean of Coll.

III.-POPULATION.

The population in 1801, was 1140
. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 1811, . . . . 1297
. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 1821, . . . . 1440
. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 1831, . . . . 1677
. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 1835, . . . . 1734
. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . 1841, . . . . 1846

The number of male heads of families in Established church, 236

Average number of marriages in the year, 15-of baptisms in do. 50

IV.-INDUSTRY.

The parish contains about 9393 imperial acres, of which are,

Arable, . . . . . . 6349
In woods, . . . . 1258
Unctiltivated, . 1240
Mosses, . . . . . . 267
Loch, . . . . . . . . 279
Total, . . . . . . . 9393

Grain, oats, and bear, (with potatoes), . . . . L.10,325 0 0
Cattle, including glasses and turnips, . . . . . . . . 6,340 0 0

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . L.16,665 0 0

Live-Stock. - Number of cattle, 2200; and of horses, 230. Very few sheep are now kept in the parish, as the greater part of the moorland is either improved or planted with wood. Considerable attention is paid by farmers to improving the breed of cattle, as also to the feeding. Some of the best oxen have been [1099] sent to the London market, for several years past, from the port of Aberdeen, particularly by Mr Milne at Fornet of Skene, who occupies an extensive farm.

Rent. - The rental of the whole parish about L.6410. The average rent per acre is L.1. Valued rent, L.2500, 6s. 18d. Scots.

The length of leases is generally nineteen years.

A general improvement in agriculture has taken place since last account; and of late, furrow-draining has been introduced, which must ameliorate the soil in several parts of the parish, where the ordinary mode of draining had little effect in preventing the injury done to the land by surface water. Most of the fields are inclosed with dry-stone fences, as there is a superabundance of material for this purpose throughout the parish. A good specimen of these enclosures presents itself to the eye of the traveller on the Skene turnpike road, upon the lands of Easterskene, where the proprietor has furnished employment to the labourer for several years past, in trenching the land, and in building dikes.

A considerable extent of waste land has been brought into cultivation (above 1000 acres) since last Account, particularly on the lands of Ord, Fiddie, Carnies, Easterskene, Leddach, Blackhills,

Kinmundy, Concraig, Newton, and Auchenclech. The late proprietor of Kirkville added (by draining) two new farms, with farm-steadings, where farm had never been before, on the haughs (rather bogs) of the Leuchar Burn, on his lands of Hillcairnie.

This he effected by straighting, cutting, and deepening the burn at considerable expense, part of which, of course, was borne by the heritors on the opposite side of the Leuchar.

Manufactures. - At Garlogie, there is a spinning manufactory * for wool, belonging to Messrs Hadden and Sons in Aberdeen, where about 120 people, old and young, are generally employed.

Steam power is occasionally added when the supply of water from the Loch of Skene falls short. Gas has been introduced of late for lighting the works in the winter season. The Company are very attentive to the comfort of the families employed at the work they have built neat cottages for their accommodation, and give them garden ground attached, all divided and inclosed. A commodious school-house has been added, which is attended by about 50 scholars during the day, consisting of the younger children, and by nearly as many of the older children in the evening, after the work of the day is over in the mill. The school-room is also occu- [1100] pied every alternate Sabbath evening as a place of worship for the families in the place, as they have not sitting in the parish church.

* Part of the worsted spun at Garlogie is manufactured at Aberdeen by the same company into carpets of excellent quality.

On the other Sabbath evenings, the younger branches of the families attend for instruction in the Sabbath school, under the care of the schoolmaster of the place, with three assistants connected with the works.

V.-PAROCHIAL ECONOMY.

Means of Communication. - There are two branches of turnpike-road leading to the west from Aberdeen, (which is distant only six miles from their junction at the east boundary of the parish), the one branch running nearly through the middle of the parish towards Alford and Strathdon; the other, more to the south, towards Tarland and, Kincardine. A stage-coach passes by the former line, every alternate day, from Aberdeen to Alford. A mail-gig runs daily on the same line; and there is a sub-post-office near the centre of the parish. The disposable produce of this and the surrounding parishes finds a ready market in the town of Aberdeen. Coals, lime, and bone-manure are brought from Aberdeen.

The commutation-roads are now kept in a much better state of repair than formerly.

Ecclesiastical State.-The church was built in 1801; has been, lately repaired by the heritors; is centrically placed for the parishioners; but is now rather small, being seated for 700, whilst

there are 800 communicants; and the preceding table of the population shows an increase of 706 since the year in which the church was built. The manse was built in 1779, and contained

only four rooms and two small attics; but, with an addition lately given by the heritors, without solicitation it is now amply commodious. The glebe contains ten acres of land, part of which was brought into cultivation by the last incumbent, having been formerly pasture or grass glebe. The stipend is one of the small livings, made up to L.150 by the Exchequer. In some years it exceeds this amount, as some of the heritors pay their proportions by the fiars' prices.

There is a small Congregational Chapel in the parish, seated for 200 hearers, the members * of which belong partly to this and partly to the adjoining parishes. Their present pastor is well educated, and is an acceptable and faithful labourer among his people.

* There are not above twelve families members within the parish

Education, - The parish school is centrically situated. There is an average attendance of from 8O, to 90 scholars in winter, and from 40 to 50 in summer. The ordinary branches of education are [1101] taught, including Latin, geography and book-keeping. The salary is L.30, with an allowance of L.2 for a garden. The teacher has the benefit of the Dick Bequest, and also L.20 yearly from the funds of the late Dr Milne of Bombay, for teaching 25 poor scholars.

Since the time of the great increase of the population, there have been two private or unendowed schools set on foot by the parishioners, one in the east, and the other in the west end of the parish. The average attendance of scholars at both these schools is from 60 to 70 throughout the year. There are also two small schools taught by female teachers, attended by about 50 younger children. The school at Garlogie mills has been already noticed. There are seven Sabbath schools in the parish, well attended. These facts prove that the people generally are fully sensible of the benefits of useful and religious instruction to their children.

Libraries. - There is a parish library, supported by regular annual contributions of 1s. by each reader. There are now upwards of 600 volumes. There is also a library connected with the Sabbath schools, supported by an annual contribution of sixpence from each member of the society. There are now upwards of 900 small volumes entered upon the catalogue. The books are given out to the scholars by the teachers at monthly exchange.

Society. - There is a Juvenile Missionary and Bible Society in the parish, which has contributed about L.12 yearly for the last three years to the Assembly's Schemes, besides giving a donation to the Aberdeen Bible Society, and Bibles and New Testaments to the poor children within the parish.

Poor and Parochial Funds.-The average number of poor on the roll is 36, besides orphan children, and others who receive occasional assistance. The ordinary poor receive from 6s. to 10s. quarterly. A few bed-rid paupers have received from 2s. to 3s. 6d. weekly. The sources of supply are, collections in the church, L.50 in the year; interest of money, L.16; proclamation of banns and mortcloth dues, from L.2 to L.3; all of which having been found insufficient, the heritors have for several years past made up the deficiency by a voluntary contribution of from L.45 to L.60 a year. Part of the allowance to the poor on the roll is given in meal, and the rest in money.

Inns, &c. - There are two inns on the middle line of turnpike-road, where travellers and carriers may be comfortably accommodated. There are 6 grocers' shops within the parish, and 4 meal-mill. There are 3 blacksmiths, 6 cart and plough-wrights, and 1 mill-wright.

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Fuel. - There is, as has already been stated, abundance of moss in the parish, so that most of the parishioners are well supplied with peats. Wood is occasionally got from thinning of the young plantations; and coals are brought from Aberdeen.

January 1843.

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