George Henderson Kinnear.

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Geo. H. Kfimcar, Gtenbcruie.









RE near approach of the centenary anniversary of the death
of Burns suggested to the author of the following pages the
desirability of having some account, however meagre and
inadequate, of the past and present history of the parish from
which sprung the family rendered now world-famous by the
genius of the great Bard.

The author, alike from observation, traditionary report, and
his own reading, was for a considerable time impressed with the
conviction that there was enough of material for a history
of the Parish of Grlenbervie, either already recorded, or
to be got from trustworthy sources, sufficient to make
a small volume, having some interest for natives and residents,
it not for a larger public.

Besides the very considerable reading and research involved in
its preparation, there was necessarily a considerable discrimina-
tion to be exercised, not only as to the relative value of whatever
came to hand, but also a careful sifting, as to whether it was fact
or fiction. The author, therefore, while endeavouring honestly to
" prove all things and hold fast to that which is good," trusts that
the public will look with an indulgent eye on the many short-
comings and inaccuracies which no doubt will be apparent to
many of those who honour him by reading the little work.

The history of the neighbouring parishes of Fordoun and
Laurencekirk has been ably dealt with already, but the author,
whilst possessing the good sense and humility to recognise their
complete superiority in respect of matter and merit with
the present work, yet ventures to hope that there may be here
and there scattered through these pages something, however small,
towards the elucidation or composition of a complete county

Amongst the many who have rendered valuable assistance to
the author only a few can be mentioned, although grateful thanks
are extended to all.


To Mr James Badenach Nicolson and Mrs Nicolson, Glen-
bervie ; the Rev. W. Gordon and Mrs Gordon, The Manse ; the
Rev. R. M. Boyd, E.G. Manse; the Rev. John Brown,
Manse, Bervie, Clerk to the Presbytery of Fordoun, and
many others in the parish and neighbourhood the Author
is indebted for much of his information. A special word
of thanks is also due to Mr W. Reith, one of the oldest
residenters in the parish, for many reminiscences of the past.

In the publication of the work valuable counsel and help have
been afforded by the editor of the Montrose Standard ; and to Mi-
William Watson, of the same office, the author is under a deep
obligation for his kindness and help in many ways.

The Burns Chapter has been revised, and in great part rewritten
by Mr Edward Pinnington, whose enthusiasm for and extensive
knowledge of Burns' matters are a guarantee of the correctness of
the matter contained therein. It is almost entirely taken from a
series of copyrighted articles published by him, some time ago, in
the Glasgow Evening News and the Montrose Standard, under the
title of " Burns in the North." These papers, it is his intention,
to republish in book form. The amount of Burns literature
nowadays is so vast, and of such ensy access that the author did
not feel called on to do more in this special chapter than exhibit
the salient points of the historical connection of the Burnesses
with the parish. The general scope of the work will tend, it is
hoped, to show rather the environing circumstances and condi-
tions of the parish under which many of the Burnesses lived.

In addition to the sources of information already noticed, the
following works, among others, have been consulted: Jervise's
" Memorials " ; Scott's Fasti Eccksiae Scotieana ; Dr Roger's
" Genealogy of Burns " ; Eraser's " History of Laurencekirk " ;
Mollyson's " History of Fordoun "; "The Annals of Fordoun,"
by Dr Cramond, Cullen ; Robertson's Agricultural Survey ; The
Black Book of Kincardineshire ; The Old and New Statistical
Accounts of the Parish ; The Glenbervie Kirk-Session Records,

&c., &c.

The author will be obliged to those who point out to him any
errors in matter of fact, so that they may, if necessary, be
corrected in future editions.

1bf8tor\> of (Slenbervie,

G. H. KINNEAR, Drumlithie.



Kincardineshire, or as it is commonly called, the
Mearns, cannot be said to have been the scene of
many of the outstanding events of Scottish history.
Hedged in between Aberdeenshire on the north,
and Forfarshire or Angus in the south, it stood far
removed in the past from those more central
districts of the country in -which the great struggles
for Scottish independence and Scottish religion
were being bitterly fought out. But although not
perhaps thus so distinguished as a scene of historic
action and valour, the achievements of the " Men of
the Mearns " in the past will bear comparison in
their respective walks of life with almost any other
county in Scotland.

" Possessed," says Jervise in his lecture to the
Fettercairn Farmers' Club in 1858, "of no more
important seminaries of learning than ordinary
schools, the county had the honour of giving birth
to some men of great literary attainments. John
De Fordun, author of the celebrated <Stfi
Chrotiicon, and the most trustworthy of our
Scottish historians, is supposed to have been born
at, and to have assumed his name from,
the ancient town of Fordoun, about the year
1350. Bishop Wisjiart of St Andrews and his
more celebrated namesake, who suffered
martyrdom during the Reformation, are sup-

/ Pf^. d to have been born at the family mansion
\J of I itarrow. The ancient house of Falconer gave
no fewer than three senators to the College of
Justice, of whom one was for some time the Lord-
President. Cadets of the Burnetts of Leys and of
the Douglases of Tilquhilly, were Bishops of the
see of Salisbury, and the first of them was one of
the greatest men of the age in which he lived.
Dr Thomas Keid, the celebrated philosopher, was
born in the manse of Strachan, and two of his an-
csstors, who were respectively eminentasphilosophers
and physicians in the time of Charles I. were
sons of the minister of Banchory - Teruan.
Keith, author of the celebrated Catalogue of the
Scottish Itixhops, was a cadet at the family of Keith,
v Marischal, and born at Uras. Douglas, compiler of
the Baronage of Scotland, was Baronet of Glenbervie.
Bishop Mitchell, of Aberdeen, belonged to Garvock.
Dr John Arbuthnott, the friend of Pope, was born
/ at Kinghoruy. Dr Beat tie, the celebrated author
of The Minstrel, was a native of Laurencekirk."
< Lord Monboddo, one of the greatest scholars of his
age, and one of the most upright of men, must be
added to the list. More names might be adduced
to swell the Mearns roll of fame, but enough has
been said to show that there is here a record of
which the county may well indeed be proud.

It is not our purpose, however, at the present
time to speak of the general history of the county,
but merely to offer the following pages as a small
contribution towards the history of one of the most
attractive and interesting of her parishes. There is
abundant material in the parish life and parish
records of the past for the local historian to make
use of, and nothing can indeed be more gratifying
than the increasing interest which of lute years has
sprung up regarding the past annals of our parishes
and shires.

Many unwritten legends and traditions there are,
as well as the already written records and accounts,
which in the present transitional and busy age it is
advisable to lay hold of and secure in more per-
manent form than what the vicissitudes and
chances ot traditionary lore can afford. Even more
than in the past will these be valuable to the future
historian. Our rapidly changing customs and
modes of living, as well as the exigencies of a highly
complex civilization will soon obliterate from view
many picturesque incidents and associations which

now invest the different localities with a romantic
and enticing charm.

These few introductory remarks will enable us,
therefore, to begin a short account of Glenbervie,
in the preparation of which the author has laid
himself under contribution to every available
source of information, both written and


as the name implies, takes its name from the river
Bervie which flows through it. The parish was
formerly known as Overbervie, a name which also
carries with it its own meaning.

Many of the names of the parishes in the
county have been changed. Laurencekirk was
formerly Conveth: St Cyrus was Ecclesgreig ;
previous to the twelfth century, as documents in the
possession of the Arbuthnott family show, the name
of the parish of Arbuthnott was not written as now,
but Aberbotheuothe. In the fourteenth century it
had become Aberbuthnott, and about the end of
the first half of the fifteenth century Arbuthnott.
Mary kirk was formerly known as Aberluthnott. S
or, as expressed in old writings Aberluthuett, whilst
the royal burgh of Bervie at the mouth of the river
the same name, is still designated in official docu-
ments by the appropriate name of Inverbervie.y

Glenbervie lies nearly in the centre of the county,
and is bounded on the west by the Water of Bervie
and the parish of Fordoun ; on the east by Dunnot-
tar and Fetteresso parishes ; on the south and south-
east by Arbuthiiott and Kiuneff ; and on the north
by the parishes of .Strachan and Durris, the march
between them and Glenbervie beiug on the ridge of
the heath-clad slopes of the Grampians. Its length
from north to south is 6i miles and it stretches 5J
miles from east to west", and contains something
over thirteen thousand acres.

Besides the principal stream there two others in
the parish the Cowie and the Carrou. The Cowie
rises in the hills on the north side of the parish,
and continues in an easterly direction, until it enters
the parish of Fetteresso. The water of Carron flows
from the hills of the Brae of Gleubervie, and passes
eastward to the valley dividing Fetteresso from
Dunnottar "a water," says the last Statistical
Account, " too diminutive to merit that classic


rises in' the hills to the north-west of the parish,
and joins the Bulg burn above the farm of Corse-
bauld, and after curving round Paldy Hill continues
its course till it reaches the Knock Hill and Glen-
barvie House round which it winds. After a
southerly course of a mile or so it receives the
Forthie, a small stream which forms the march

Tiweeh Glenbervie and Arbuthnott. Turning
eastwards it then leaves the parish at a point south-
east from its source. It continues its easterly
direction to near Fordouu Station, thence south-
east through the the beautifully wooded grounds of
Arbuthnott, and finally enters the sea at Bervie.

The banks of the Bervie are in many places very
picturesque. Where it comes down from the upper
district of the parish its banks are but little
wooded, but round Glenbervie House and in the
parish of Arbuthnott they are rugged and wooded,
the slopes to the river being covered with a rich
profusion of wild flowers and fern. It has for long
enjoyed a high reputation as a trout fishing stream
amongst the disciples of Isaak Walton. Yellow
trout are abundant, whilst at certain seasons, in
the lower reaches of the river especially, sea trout
and grilse afford good sport to the angler. It is to
the credit of the various proprietors, through
whose ground the river runs that no barrier has
been placed in the way of legitimate sport with the
rod and line.

The parish, considered topographically, may be
divided into


(1.) That which lies along the side of the Bervie
Water. The soil here is, on the whole, productive
and comparatively early. "It is," says the last
Statistical Account, " diversified by sloping banks
and swelling grounds, and though but ill-clothed
with wood, and almost destitute of hedge or hedge-
row, shelter or screen, is not impleasing to the
view." Since the above was written, this district in
common with other parts of the parish has shared
in the general improvement which has taken place
within the last half century in agricultural methods
and practice.

A part of this district which joins Arbuthnott on
the southeast is bounded by a sand-bank, commonly
known as the Kaincs "rising," says the authority

already quoted, " abruptly from the level on bcth
sides, us if it had been cast up by human art.
though from the regular strata it contains, it has
obviously been the effect of some water-course ; yet
the similar acclivity on both sides might accliue one
to suppose that some convulsion had aided in throw-
ing up the girdling mound."

2. The middle district separated byasort of ravine
from the Bervie water district. This district again
may be divided into an eastern and a western branch .
The western division is considerably elevated, and
lens attractive in appearance than the western.
Seventy years ago it was said to be " bleak in
appearance, little cultivated, almost neglected."
The eastern division is more fertile, and although
high and exposed is now in a state oi good cultiva-

3. The northern district is naturally of a colder ar.d
less productive character, lying as it does close to tlie
Grampian range. It has not such an inviting
appearance as other parts of the parish, although
the advance within the last half century in every
respect has been very marked. Parts that were
formerly wild and barren moors are being gradually
brought under cultivation, and may be expected to
produce relatively as good crops as any other dis-
trict of the parish.

The parish has for long enjoyed an enviable
reputation for


The natural situation conjoined with bracing
breezes from the hills renders it at once salubrious
and pleasant. The atmosphere is diy and pure, and
though it may not vie with other places in outward
attractions and interest, it may safely be com-
mended to the health-seeker as a spot which will in
a short time have nn invigorating and wholesome
effect 011 his health. " The climate is very cold
in winter," says the last Statistical Account,
not so much from elevation above the level
of the sea, as from proximity to the hills hi
the background, which are, toon after autumn,
capped with snow ; and, excepting short intervals
of softer temperature, remains so till towards
spring. However, from the inland situation of the
parish, the heights between intercepting tlie sea-
breeze, the heat of summer is considerably grnter
that on the coast, or even oil the nuts of the thore ;

hence the crops of these districts, where the soil is
not naturally wet and cold, come to maturity fully
as soon as those which no frosts have benumbed in
their seed-bed, not blasts from the mountain
checked in their spring."

According to the last census the population was
only 887, One hundred and forty years sgo the
number of inhabitants was ^58 that is a little
more than to-day. In 1796 it had risen to 1307 ;
in 1821 it was 1227 ; in 1831 it was 1248 ; and now
in 1895 it has receded again to 887.

It will be thus seen that for the last quarter of
the eighteenth century and well on through the
first half of the present century, the population was
practically stationary. During a considerable part
of that period there was neither inducement
nor desire for the inhabitants to leave their
native parish, but the " yearly emigra-
tion " to other districts, spoken of by the
Rev. Mr Drummond in the last Statistical Account,
has been very marked during the last half century.
Of course this has by no means been confined to
Glenbervie. The most superficial observer cannot
fail to have noticed the steady and continuous
stream of the best of the peasantry into the large
towns and cities during the last three or four
decades. Our statesmen, irrespective of party, are
trying to avert this by making


more attractive to what in a certain sense is, no
doubt, the backbone of the nation. It will be, we
doubt not, to the benefit of the individual as well as
to the community at large that this influx into the
towns, and consequent depletion of our rural
peasantry, should be considerably arrested. How
this is to be done it is for the Legislature to say.
Other European nations have given us an object-
lesson as to the value of a rural peasantry, and we
must wish well to all our legislators, who, by their
efforts are able to entice the labourer back again to
the soil, and settle him there, for as the poet Gold-
smith has said

" A bold peasantry, their country's pride,

When once destroyed, can never be supplied."
The following analysis of the population one hun-
dred years ago will be interesting. It shows that
verging on the " three score and ten " years and
over it, there were 158 souls or about 1 in every 8

of the population, a fact bearing testimony to the
general longevity of our rural population then, and
the healthfuliiess for which the parish as above
stated has been long famed. There were of a
population 1307750 being males, and 557 females
Under 10 .. 277

Between 10 and 20 .. 244
20 30 .. 228
30 40 .. 193
40 50 .. 115
50 60 92

60 70 100

70 80 46

80 90 9

90 100 3





The principal estates in the parish are (1) Glen-
bervie, Mr J. B. Nicolson ; (2) Drnrnlithie, belong-
ing to the trustees of the late Mr Millar ; (3) Law-
gavin, Mr Burnett of Monboddo ; (4) Inchbreck, Mr
J. Stuart of Laithers ; (5) Dellavaird, Eev. James
Gammell, Drumtochty ; (6) Mergie, Mr Duff of
Fetteresso ; (7) JMlsidg.

(1.) Glcnbervie is, of course, the principal estate
in the parish, and the only one with a residence.
It extends to 8481 acres. A survey taken about
forty years ago, showed the arable area at that time
to have been 2985 acres, the natural pasture, 3850 ;
and the woods 116 acres. Since then, however, a
large extent has been added to the arable area,
while almost 300 acres have been planted. Within
the last quarter of a century more than 10,000
has been expended by the proprietor on general
agricultural improvements on the estate ; and in
addition to this the tenants have also improved the
estate by draining, reclamation of moor or waste
laud, and other works. Advantage was taken at
an early period of the Drainage Loan Act,
they having previous to 1855 put in about 90
miles of subsoil drains on the Glenbervic
estate. Recent improvements have been carried
out under private arrangements between the
proprietor and individual tenants. Advantage is
also taken on the expiry of a lease to carry out
improvements of the houses and other desirable
works. The five-course rotation has long been the
rule on the estate, "but," says one in some recent
remarks on the management of the estate, "Mr
Nicolson, who is


has been encouraging his tenantry to grow a greater
extent of grass, and devote still more attention to
the rearing and feeding of stock. On suitable land
and under good maiiiigment, he allows two su ?
roi-ive grain crops to be grown when the tenant
(It MIX'S in have that advantage." The hill portion
of(j!li'iil>tTvic, extending to about 2400 acres is fenced
in and used as a sheep farm. The soil on the Gleu-
benie estate varies from good strong fertile clayey-


loam to thiii loam lyiug on a hard pan. The sub-
soil on the better parts is gravel and clay.

(2.) Dr ami it hie estate was formerly known as
Kiumonihs, from the fact that there are several
farms of that name on the estate. It was pur-
chased about the beginning of the present century
from Viscount Arbuthnott by Mr Gordon of Avochie'
but was purchased by Mr John Miller,
whose trustees now administer it. This estate, like
Glenbervie, has been considerably improved during
the last half century by draining and reclaiming
waste or moor. The village of Drnmlithie is built
on this property. It extends to over 1600 acres, and
extends southward from the Lawgaven and Brae
district of the parish to its most southerly boundary .
This is intersscted now both by the great north road
and the main line of the Caledonian Railway. The
land adjacent to the village of Drumlithie is divided
up into crofts of a few acres, which are eagerly
/sought for, at considerable rents, by tradesmen and
others in the district.

(3.) Lawgaven estate, an ancient patrimony of the
Burnetts of Monboddo, comprehends from 1000 to
1100 acres, of which, perhaps three -fourths are in
cultivation. It lies close to the Grampians, and
extends for about two miles in length, along the
base of the hills, being watered by the Carron, which
has its source near this.

(4.) //tir<vzcomprehendsaboutl600 acres, mostly
mountain pasture, and at the beginning of the cen-
turp scarcely one-fifth of the whole was in cultiva-
tion. It was on this estate that the ancestors of Burns
were settled. The names of Bogjorgon, Bogherb,
J Lady's Moss, Brawliernoor, and others in the vicinity
are very suggestive vS'io the original character of
the soil.

(5.) Dellavaird lies to the north-west of Glenbervie
House, and extends about two miles to the west.
There are 1200 acres or thereby of it in the parish
of Glenbervie, and it is nowina good state of cultiva-
tion. The estate was purchased from the Earl of
Kintore by George Harley Drummond, esq., and is
now possessed by Rev. James Gammell of Drum-
tochty Castle.

J (6.) Nergic the most northerly of the estates in
,the parish is upwards of five miles in length, and
about a mile broad at an average ; and contains
about 3600 acres. It belongs to Mr Duff of


.(7.) Fallsidc, a small estate in east end of the
parish, consists of about 390 acres. It may be con-
sidered the terminating point to the Howe of the
Mearns on the east.

The most attractive spot in the parish is, without
doubt, that round


Here the landscape is diversified by wood, river,
meadow, and hedge-row. Fine old trees adorn the
lawn in front of the house, two large gnarled cedar
larches, curiously branched, which came originally
from Ireland, being very prominent. The principal
entrance to the mansion is flanked on each side by
fine old trees whose green towering branches form a
natural archway of great beauty. The other appro-
aches to the house as well as to the whole policies
are enclosed by beech hedges, well trimmed and
kept, which gives them a pleasing and attractive

The house itself nestles cosily under the shadow
of the Knock Hill, by the side of the Bervie water.
From the top of the Knock Hill a magnificent view
of the Howe of the Mearns is got as well as the
landscape to the north and east. Stretching away
to the west and south is the magnificent expanse of
the " Howe," with its dark woods and green fields
dotted here and there with cosy homesteads.
Glancing to the right one sees the tall spire of
Fordoun Kirk, and recollects the legend which ran
that in a far off age the ecclesiastical authorities
intended to build the parish church on the top of
the Knock Hill, but having been counselled by some
unseen power to desist, they did so, and took it
further down the valley.

Tearing along through the valley comes the iron
horse which tells of a busy restless age, and of a
world " where to live is to brawl and to battle and
the strong treads the weak man down." On the
left, crowning the top of the hill stands the tower
of Johnstone, keeping a silent watch over the rest-
less ocean. Further off one can even discern the
peaks of the Sidlaws and the Grampians skirting
the valley of Strathmore under which name the
Howe is continued even as far as the middle of

On the north and east the view is bounded by the
outline of the hills, between which and the spectator
lie many comfortable-looking farmhouses and
steadings. Looked at in the bright sunshiue of au


autumn afternoon, when the heather is in full
bloom, the hills present a picture of great radiance
and beauty.

Glenbervie House is a very old one, and is
supposed to occupy the site of the old " Castle of
Glenbervie" to which Edward I. marched, and
where he stayed for a night when on his journey

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Online LibraryGeorge Henderson KinnearHistory of Glenbervie → online text (page 1 of 12)