J. G McPherson.

Strathmore: past and present, being topographical, ecclesiastical, and historical sketches of the parishes in the centre of Strathmore; with particular notices of the Abbey of Cupar and the Priory of Rostinoth online

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Online LibraryJ. G McPhersonStrathmore: past and present, being topographical, ecclesiastical, and historical sketches of the parishes in the centre of Strathmore; with particular notices of the Abbey of Cupar and the Priory of Rostinoth → online text (page 12 of 20)
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extraordinare good pasturage for multitudes of sheep on
the hills of Kilpurnie."

Among the flora of the parish, there are to be found
the Redrattle (with its large crimson flowers, overtopping
all the surrounding herbage) ; Butterwort (with its very
handsome purple flowers) ; the elegant Grass of Parnassus
(beautifully veined and cream-coloured) ; the Rockrose


(whose bright yellow flowers open only in the sunshine)
the Sneeze wort (with white flowers and pungent smell) ;
the highly ornamental Milkwort (with its variegated
starlike flowers); and the Sea Plantain (with its narrow
fleshy leaves and yellowish cylindrical spikes). On the
ruined walls of Hatton Castle Dr. Barty found the
Gromwell ; and in the parish, though rare, the common

In 1755, the population of the parish was 913, there
being a considerable number of handloom weavers with
a small croft of land each ; now it is about the same in
population, though differently occupied. The valued
rent is 2730 ; and the assessed property about 10,000.
The old Church was built in 1767 ; but this gave place, in
1871, to a very handsome new edifice, which does great
credit to the architect and proprietors. One curious in-
scription i.s found on a tombstone in the churchyard (of
date 1771) :

" Here lies the body of Robert Small,
Who, when in life, was thick, not tall ;
But, what's of greater consequence,
He was endowed with good sense."

The Parochial records go back to 1G48, and contain an
instructive historical epitome of the parish and curious
documents illustrative of the customs of bygone ages.
For example, on 8th May 1G98, " The Prisbitry violently
entered the Church by breaking up the doors thereof; so
that the parishoners did conveen to the Haltoun, where
they are to have sermon maintained by the Bishop of
Aberdeen ;" and this service, by the Bishop or his deputes,
was continued for twelve years. In 1715, the minister,
George Chcphane, was prevented by armed interference
from preaching in the Church ; his house was outrageously
entered by soldiers ; and he himself was threatened, and
forced to "abscond " for a time. The soldiery barbarously


frightened his wife and family, stabbed the very beds
with naked swords, and carried off a considerable part of
ilie goods. Yet afterwards, by prudence and patience,
he ingratiated himself to his parishioners, and became a
very useful and efficient, as well as a zealous and faithful,
minister. According to the Records of the Presbytery,
19th July 1808, "In the parish of Newtyle it appears
the minister had right of pasturage over Hatton, a very
considerable farm, and that the minister and Presbytery
consented to give up this right for two acres of ground."
In the recent case of Newtyle in the Court of Session, in
re Whitton v. Lord Wharncliffe, 1869, the point was
raised (but, under an arrangement of parties, withdrawn
from judicial consideration) whether, after a particular
course of action such as rebuilding, as opposed
to repairing merely, the parish church has been
adopted by a resolution duly passed at one meeting
of heritors, such resolution can be, at a subsequent
meeting of heritors, competently negatived by a counter
resolution. The conclusion come to is that where
nothing of a practical nature has followed upon the
first resolution, it can be recalled at a subsequent

One thing during this century which has brought
Newtyle more prominently into notice is the fact that
the first railway (or one of the first railways) in existence
was constructed between Dundee and Newtyle. It was
begun in 1826, and completed in 1831 ; with an authorised
capital of 140,000 in shares and 30,000 in debentures.
It left Dundee on an inclined plane half-a-mile long, with
a gradient of 1 in 10, and proceeded through a shoulder
of Dundee Law in a tunnel 340 yards long. Altogether
there were three inclines, where stationary engines drew
up the carriages ; and two level portions, where the car-


riages were drawn at first by horses and then by
locomotives. The last incline at Hatton was 1 in 12,
reaching an elevation of 544 feet above sea level, from
which a descent was made to the valley of Strathmore.
The carriages were at first open ; but when the spark s
from the locomotive began to set fire to the passengers'
clothing, they were roofed in with canvas. On one
occasion, a country wife was on her journey for the first
time with her basket of eggs for Dundee market, when
the rope of the incline-engine broke, and the carriages
ran down with increasing momentum till all were turned
out ; though her eggs were smashed, she had no idea it
was an accident, for, when afterwards asked how she
liked the train, she replied " It was a guygude ride, but
it was a rough affpittin." This railway terminated in a
field of fifteen acres, which Lord Wharncliffe laid out on
a regular plan, with streets named as in a town, building
stances being disposed of in lots ; but the projectors of the
scheme were very much disappointed, though the village
rapidly increased, and is now an active, compact place.
The bone-mill, which was then erected to crush bones for
agricultural purposes, is still doing an extensive business,
though now more in dissolved bones. The old railway is
now replaced by an entirely locomotive railway, passing
through the Glack between ITatton and Newtyle Hills ;
and there suddenly opening to the passengers the magni-
ficent panorama of Strathmore. There is a station at
Newtyle connecting this line with the branches to Alyth
and Blairgowrie. Last year the Dundee Water Commis-
sioners put up a tank at Pitnappie, where the course of the
water-supply from the Loch of LintrathentoDundee reaches
its highest elevation an experiment to relieve the pipes
from pressure of air and sotopreventbursting. Whatever the
cause, this has not been effectual ; for every two or three


months the pipes have burst in the lower part of the
Strath, where the pressure is enormous ; and it seems
that, as some miscalculation was originally made about
the thickness of the pipes, a new set of relief pipes is
indispensable for the convenient transit of the water
through the valley.

Next in size to the village of Newtyle is Newbigging,
now rather old-looking, with about 25 dwelling-houses
and 10 pendicles. This was originally a manor called
Newtibber, from which " Angos and Richard de Neuto-
bere," both designed of the shire of Forfar, did homage to
Edward I. at Berwick in 1296. The history of the pro-
perty is obscure ; but from the Register of Arbroath
Abbey, we find that in the fifteenth century a family of
Ramsay of Auchterhouse were designed of it, and that
more recently it belonged to the Scrimgeours. The name
is derived from tobar, a " well," and new, a prefix denoting
a peculiarity of the well. A century ago there was only
one dissenter. The U.P. Church became transformed, a
few years ago, into a fine hall ; but there is still a small
F.C. congregation. The school is new, handsome and com-
modious. There is one hotel in the village, and one at Alyth
Junction on the main line of railway from Perth to Aber-
deen. There is an excellent public library, a branch of
the Commercial Bank, and a Savings Bank ; a surgeon
also resides in the village. From 1740 to 1790 provisions
tripled in price, and wages quadrupled ; " yet the ser-
vants save no more money now than formerly, owing
chiefly to their extravagance in dress ; " though Mr. Small
adds (in the Old Statistical Account): " The people are in
general sober and economical, enjoying in a reasonable
degree the comforts and advantages of society, and on the
whole seem pretty well satisfied with their condition."
Mr. Moon, in the New Statistical Account in 1842, re-


marks : " Complaints are general as to the lowness of
wages ; but employment continues to be afforded to those
willing to work." Such complaints, we are afraid, will
be made to the end of the chapter, in the increasing
struggle between capital and labour.


ON the southern side of Strathmore, partly in Perthshire,
hut mostly in Forfarshire, lies the quiet parish of Kettins.
The Perthshire portion called Bandirran about a
square mile in area, is six miles south-west of the nearest
part of the main body, which is 4 miles long and 3 broad.
Two rivulets, of 6 and 4 miles' course respectively, pass
through or bound the parish, and unite a little south of
Cupar-Angus. The village of Kettins, about a mile
south-east of Cupar, 12 from Perth and 14 from Dundee,
is delightfully situated upon one of these streams, al-
most hidden among trees. It is much admired by the
lovers of the picturesque. For rural simplicity and art-
less loveliness it cannot be surpassed, the neatly-kept
cottages, with their pretty flower gardens, adding to
Nature's beauty. The village green in the centre forms
the field of many an innocent amusement ; the Church
looks out from its belt of trees, uttering pax vobiscum,
and the Manse nestles close below, with its peaceful
shelter of yew trees, all embosomed in a magnificent wood,
not unlike the " Taxwood " of Dr. Macduff's last story.
Henry Dryerre thus beautifully addresses this sweetspot:

"Serene, sequestered, and supremely sweet,
For dreamy poet's habitation meet ;
In tender beauty, peacefulness, and ease,
With softly-murmuring stream, and whispering trees ;
Fair Kettins ! Nature hath bestowed on tliee
Such gifts as only for her favourite be ! "

A learned antiquarian has suggested to us that the
name originally spelled Kethenys is derived from the
East-of-Scotland god Keth, as in Inchkeith and Keithock.
Possibly his sidhe or attendant spirits haunted the hills


on the south (Sidlaws), and spread terror into the minds
of the people for many a clay after Christianity had ob-
tained a hold. The parish is bounded on the east by
Newtyle and Lundie, north by Cupar, west by Cargill
and Collace, and south by Abernyte.

The soil is various, a great part being light and thin,
but some of strong clay and friable black mould. A cen-
tury ago there were seven villages in the parish, whose
inhabitants had small pendicles and eked out their
honest living by handloom weaving of coarse linen. To
a great extent these are now joined into large farms.
Nearly all the hills and the least productive of the low
grounds have been planted with trees of various kinds,
which adds to the value and beauty of the district. The
principal points of the Sidlaw range in the parish are
Keillor Hill (1088 ft.), and Gask Hill (1141 ft), partly
heathy, partly wooded, and partly pastured. In his
" Agriculture of Perthshire," Dr. Robertson suggests that
the range received its name Seed-law, as lie spells it
from the circumstance of its commanding a prospect of
the German Ocean from Aberdeen to Berwick ; but we
cannot easily reconcile this suggestion with the oldest
way of spelling the range, Sidlo.

Besides the more common plants to be found in the parish,
may here and there be seen the Round-leaved Sundew (an
insectivorous plant) ; the Water Lobelia (with light-blue
drooping flowers) ; the Bloody Crane's Bill (with handsome
bright purple (lowers) ; the Mare's Tail (a singular plant,
with narrow-leaved whorls) ; the Bladderwort (adorning
ditches with large brightyellowclusters); the Sweet-scented
Orchis (with rose-purple flowers) ; and the Trailing St.
John's Wort (whoso j'ellow flowers open only in the sun).

The honourable family of Hallyburtonhad for a consider-
able time extensive property in this parish. In the early part


of the fifteenth century, the family built the Castle of Pit-
cur, one mile south of the village. This castle is now in ruins,
which give no idea of its former grandeur. The moulder-
ing remains stand, on the brow of a gentle declivity,
romantically backed by the wood-clad Sidlaws, and facing
the grand panoramic scene of Strathmore. Pitcur is an
ancient barony, which came into the possession of the
Hallyburtons by marriage, in 1432 ; and which gave its
title to the family afterwards. A very celebrated mem-
ber of it was James, who was Provost of Dundee for
thirty years, and was one of the Commissioners appointed
by the estates of Scotland to go to France and arrange
the marriage of Queen Mary and the Dauphin. The Laird
of Pitcur was a strong supporter of Viscount Dundee, and
followed hiinin his engagements. Ochterlony in his"Shyre
of Forfar" (dated 1684), says of Pitcur : " It is a great
old house, with much fine planting. It is ane ancient
great and honourable familie."


In more recent times Lord Douglas Gordon Hally burton
represented the County of Forfar from the passing of the Re-
form Bill till his death. He was succeeded by his nephew,
who in 1836 married the daughter of William IV., and cou-
sin to our present Queen. After the Castle of Pitcur became
unfit for a residence, the family removed to Hallyburton
House, a modern mansion east of the village. A few years
ago the property was sold to Graham Menzies, Esq., father
of the present proprietor, Robert Stewart Menzies, Esq., a
candidate for the Kirkcaldy Burghs in the Liberal interest.

About a hundred years ago some tumuli were found in
the parish, when digging for the turnpike road from
Cupar, through the deep ravine, dividing the Sidlaws,
on to Dundee. One at Pitcur contained at least 1000
loads of stones ; and in its centre, a few flat, unwrought
stones, without date or marks, contained some human bones.


In another, a mile further south, an urn was discovered full
of bones. At Campmuir, in Lintrose, close to Cupar,
there are still observable vestiges of a Roman Camp (with
only one gate opening towards Cupar) ; where part of
Agricola's army put up in 83 A.D., when the rest camped
at Cupar- Angus, on the site of the ancient Abbey and
the present Parish Church. At Baldowrie, in the north
of the parish, there is an erect Danish monument, six
feet in height, containing some figures, which are almost
wholly defaced. On the summit of one of the hills which
stretch along the south side of the estate of Pitcur are the
ruins of the Castle of Dores ; in which, according to tra-
dition, Macbeth resided for some time during the erection
of his stronghold on the neighbouring hill of Dunsinane.
On this hill, near the ruins, great quantities of ashes have
been discovered, which show that it had been one of the
hills where fires used to be kindled in ancient times, to
alarm the country on the approach of the enemy. In
17G3, when some quarriers were working, they discovered
an excavation in the solid rock, in which they found some
half-consumed bones of a soft consistency. The hole was
a yard square, and seemed to direct its course towards
the south ; but it had no means of communication with
the outer world. No light has ever been thrown upon
this mysterious piece of human handiwork. A Weem or
Peght's house was discovered fifty years ago in a field at
Lintrose, with built sides, paved floor, and two fireplaces
the breadth of the inner end being 8 feet, and height 5
feet, gradually narrowing to 3 feet at the entrance. Lin-
trose, once called Todderance.. from Lord Todderance, a
senator of the College of Justice, is one mile west of the
village, environed with fertile fields and thriving planta-
tions. About six years ago, a cave was discovered at
Pitcur, through the overturning of a large stone which in-

KETT1NS. 157

terfered with the progress of the plough in turning over
the land. On removing the stone, an underground pas-
sage was discovered. In digging out the rubbish an
earthenware bowl was found, broken in pieces by the
workmen's implements. These pieces were gathered and
cemented together, and form a bowl well-made in good
preservation, and with well denned figures of ancient
warriors and lower animals on the outside of the rim.
When the property came into the hands of Mr. Menzies,
he, at great trouble and outlay, had the passages to a
large extent opened up and cleared out. Many cup
marks were seen on the stones. An ancient coin and
several articles of interest to antiquarians were found ; but
nothing to determine accurately the date or history of
this subterranean passage, which, being about 500 yards
to the east of Pitcur Castle, is supposed by some to have
extended itself to it, and to have been employed
variously. Hopes are entertained that interest will not
abate in these excavations, and that further light may yet
be thrown on the history of the place.

The estate of Keillor, the mansion-house of which is in
Kettins, was anciently a part of the Earldom of Strathearn.
Randulph de Kelore, who did homage to Edward I. in
12D6, was a vassal. In the time of King Robert the
Bruce, the lands seem to have been divided ; for then
Robert Harkers had a gift of the barony, and again, in
the time of Robert III., Walter Ogilvy had Easter Keillor.
In 1384, in a charter " by John of Kelor to John of
Ardillar (Ardler), six merks were to be given annually
out of the two towns of Keillor." In 1407, Walter
Ogilvy gave an annuity from it to the altar of St. George
in the Cathedral of Brechin. Subsequently Sylvester
Hadden (or Haldane) held it. In 1514, he witnesses the
retour of service of Alexander Lindsay to the office of


hereditary blacksmith of the Lordship of Brechin. In
1G45, Easter Keillor fell to Susan, sister of Alexander
Haldan. Tradition says that for some act of kindness
which was shown by one of the " auld guidwives " to
King James, when travelling incognito as " the Quid
man o' Ballengeich," in this district, the patrimonial
estate of the family was increased by royal grant, and
held upon this curious tenure :

" Ye Haddens o' the moor, ye pay noclit,
But a hairen tether if it's socht
A red rose at Yule, and a sua' ba' at Lammas."

Keillor passed from the Haldanes to the Hallyburtons of
Pitcur ; in 1800 to the Hon. James M'Kenzie (Lord Privy
Seal) ; and now is in possession of Lord Wharncliffe.

According to Skene, Kettins was a Thanage for a con-
siderable peiiod; in 1264, Eugenius, Thane of Kathenes,
possessed a large grange, a small part of which was an ab-
thanrie. Thereafter it was erected into a Barony; for we find
that, in 1309, King Robert I. on the resignation of Malcolm
de Kaithness gave a charter of the Barony of Kettins to
Sir Patrick de Ogilvie, an ancestor of the Earl of Airlie.

Ecclesiastically it is believed that Kettins was once
the seat of a Celtic Monastery. The occurrence of the
word abthen as descriptive of land may always be held
to point out the territory of an ancient Abbey. In one
very old work (Martin's Relig. Divi. Andree), the " ab-
denrie " of Kettins occurs ; and in another (Inquisit.
Retorn. Abbrev. voce Forfar), certain lands are described
as "abden of Kettins." This view is supported by the
fact that in a charter, dated 1292, Hugh of Kettins
granted the well in his lands of Ketenes, called Bradwell,
with its aqueduct bounded and servitude and waterage,
to the Abbey of Cupar ; hence it was the site of an early
ecclesiastical establishment. Bradwell is just Bride's
Well, afterwards changed to Saint Bridget, the virgin, the


patron saint of Kettins. The Kirk of Ketyns had six
chapels dependent upon it Peatie, South Coston. Pictur,
Muiryfaulds, Denhead, and Kettins each of these having
small enclosures used as burying-grounds. It belonged
to the Diocese of St. Andrews, and was dedicated by
Bishop David, in 1249. In the Register of the Priory of
St. Andrews, according to the Taxatio of 1250, Ketenis
was rated at 55 merks. In the Registrum vetus de
Aberbrothoc Ketyns was rated in the Taxatio of 1275 at
55 merks. The fruits and revenues were granted to the
hospital or Domus Dei of Berwick. But, in 1390, Sir
James Lindsay of Crawford granted his house in Dundee
first as a convent for the ransom of Christian captives
from Turkish slavery, and then to the Red or Trinity
Friars for an Hospital or Maisondieu, in which the old
and infirm might reside. King Robert III., in confirm-
ing this charter, enriched it with a gift of the Church of
Kettins and its revenues. These the king transferred
from Berwick to Dundee: " Because the burgh and castle
of Berwyk have been in the hands of our adversaries the
English, we will and give the church of Ketnes with all
its fruits and forthcomings to the hospital of Dunde."
In the rental of the lands of the Priory of Rostinoth,
Ketynnes-mill paid 40s., and the lands of the Barony
of Kethenys 4 Scots. The patronage of the teinds
of Kettins belonged at one time to the Church of
Peebles ; for, in 1536, James Paterson, minister of Peebles
and Rector of Ketnes, granted a lease of some of the
teind-sheaves of the parish to George Hallyburton, who
agreed to give 4 merks yearly out of the same to Sir
David Jack, for five years, on account of " his thankful
service and labours done for us at our command to the
minister of Peebles." In 1558, Friar Gilbert Brown of
the Church of the Holy Cross at Peebles, granted by


charter the Kirk lands at Kettins (now called Newhall) to
James Small of Kettins. In 1590, James Anderson (who,
in 1574, also served Bendochy and Collace), was
minister, and " his haill buikis were estimat at 200 Scots,
and utencils at 40; he wrote a treatise in verse, (reprinted
in 1851), on the first and second coming of Christ. In
1606, Colin Campbell was one of the forty-two ministers
who subscribed a petition to Parliament against the Intro-
duction of Episcopacy. In 1638, James Auchiuleck of
Ketins, whose wife presented the Communion cups, was
brought before the General Assembly, accused of " de-
fending the doctrine of universal grace ; " but satisfying
the Assembly of his orthodoxy, he was acquitted ; how-
ever some years afterwards he was deposed by the
Assembly's Committee for visitation. In 1654, for some
time there was no Session, " because of the Englishers
coming alongs who made the people to return quicklie to
their howses." In 1716, James Patone was taken prisoner
by George Duncan, his cousin, one of the Lieutenants of
the Shire. In 1793, James Trail published a translation
of the rather curious description in Latin, of date 1678, of
the Shire of Angus by Robert Edwards of Murroes. In
1800, when Mr. Symers was nominated by the Crown to
Kettins, the Magistrates and Town Council of Peebles
presented another ; but the Court of Session decided in
favour of Mr. Symers because of proscription. In 1786,
the Court of Session decided, in the case of Kettins, that
when the minister, as pursuer of the process of augmenta-
tion and modification of stipend, is not culpable of undue
delay, the decree of augmentation operates retrospec-
tively to the date of the demand in the summons : in
this case the summons was dated in 1764, and decree
was pronounced in 1786, so that the minister received
at once twenty-two years of augmentation. In 1808, a

x^i'IilVS. Inl

Committee of Presbytery reported that Kettins had no
grass-glebe designed for it by decreet of the Presbytery.
Protests were taken by the Heritors and 20 Scots were
given in lieu of this glebe. According to the Parliamentary
Return, the total sum levied by way of assessment for
building, and repair of, the Church and Manse during the
10 years ending 31st December 1879, was 1,045.

The chapel of Keillor is believed to have had the
largest burial enclosure. Ancient sculptured remains are
found there, especially one remarkable sculptured monu-
ment, embellished with the rude outline sketch of a boar.
In the churchyard of Kettins there is an interesting
sculptured monument (fully nine feet high), of the
same type as those in the churchyard of Meigle ; this
had been used, from time immemorial, as a foot-bridge
across the Burn flowing through the village of Kettins,
until the spring of 18GO, when it was properly placed in
its present site by Lord Douglas Gordon Hallyburton.

The bell in the belfry of the Church was unearthed from
the Baldinnie bog, some hundreds of yards south of the
Church, while the ground was being trenched. The
occupants of Baldinnie at the time presented the bell to
the Church, in return for which they obtained a right of
burial beneath the belfry. The present incumbent Rev.
James Fleming, M.A. has kindly furnished us with the in-
scription on it in relievo, which he took down personally

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Online LibraryJ. G McPhersonStrathmore: past and present, being topographical, ecclesiastical, and historical sketches of the parishes in the centre of Strathmore; with particular notices of the Abbey of Cupar and the Priory of Rostinoth → online text (page 12 of 20)