1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Banffshire

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BANFFSHIRE, a north-eastern county of Scotland, bounded N. by the Moray Firth, E. and S. by Aberdeenshire, and W. by Elgin and Inverness. It has an area of 403,364 acres, or 633½ sq. m. The surface is diversified. The northern half is mostly a fine, open, undulating country of rich, highly-cultivated soil. The southern is mountainous, but extensive farms are found in its fertile glens. Some of the mountains are thick with forests, some present a beautiful intermixture of rock and copse, while others are covered with brown heath. The principal mountains are all in the south; among them are Cairngorm, on the confines of the shires of Banff and Inverness (4084 ft.), famous for its amber-coloured quartz crystals, the "cairngorms" of Scots jewelry; Ben Rinnes (2775 ft.); Corryhabbie (2563); Cook's Cairn (2478); Carn an t-Saidhe (2401); and the Buck of Cabrach (2368). No great rivers belong wholly to Banffshire. For a considerable part of their courses the Spey forms the western and the Deveron the eastern boundary of the county. But Banffshire streams are comparatively short, the chief being the Avon, Fiddich, Isla, Buckie, Deskford—with a series of cascades—and Livet. Most of them are stocked with trout and the Spey and Deveron are famous for their salmon. The great glens are distinguished for their romantic scenery, the chief being Glen Avon, Glen Barry, Glen Fiddich, Glen Isla, Glen Livet, and Glen Rinnes. The largest lochs are in the extreme south: Loch Avon (2300 ft. above the sea), Loch Builg (1586) and Loch Etchachan (3100).

Geology.—The geology of Banffshire is closely connected with that of the neighbouring counties of Aberdeen and Elgin, from which it is divided by no natural boundaries. The greater portion is occupied by crystalline schists of sedimentary origin belonging to the Eastern Highland sequence. The groups which are typically developed comprise (1) slates, black schists and phyllites with thin black limestone, sometimes containing tremolite, (2) the main limestone, (3) the quartzite (Schiehallion). These form subparallel belts trending north-east and south-west from the seacoast between Cullen and Portsoy southwards by Keith and Dufftown to the head waters of the Avon beyond Tomintoul. Some excellent sections of the phyllites are to be seen on the shore between Sandend, near Portsoy, and Findlater Castle, near Cullen, and in the railway cutting near Mulben, west of Keith. The main limestone has been worked at Fordyce, near Grange east of Keith, and at Keith and Dufftown. The quartzite, which is regarded as probably the highest member of the series, forms prominent ridges due to the more rapid erosion of the phyllites, mica-schists and limestones occupying the intervening hollows. It appears on the coast between Cullen and Buckie, it forms the Durn Hill near Portsoy, the Binn of Cullen, the Knock Hill, Ben Aigan and various ridges trending southwards from Grange by Glen Fiddich towards Tomintoul. In the north-east part of the county there is a large development of slate with interbedded greywackes and pebbly grits, which occupies the coast section between Macduff and Troup Head except a small part at Gamrie. The slate has been quarried for roofing purposes. No fossils have been found in these strata and their age is uncertain. The metamorphic sediments have been pierced by acid and basic igneous intrusions, partly before and partly after the folding and metamorphism of the strata. The older acid and basic materials appear as sheets injected along the lines of bedding of the sediments and are traceable for considerable distances. They are foliated in places, the planes of schistosity being more or less parallel with the planes of bedding in the schists. The older acid rocks are represented by the sills of granite and augen-gneiss occurring west of Portsoy, south of Fordyce and near Keith, while the older basic rocks are illustrated by the belt of gabbro, epidiorite and hornblende-schist which stretches southwards from the coast at Portsoy, by Rothiemay to Huntly in Aberdeenshire. Veins and bosses of serpentine are associated with these basic intrusions at Portsoy and near Grange, one of the veins being traceable at intervals from the shore southwards in the direction of Knock Hill. The later intrusions are represented by the Ben Rinnes mass of granite and its basic modification, the Netherly diorite, east of Rothes. Various mineral localities occur throughout the county, of which some of the most important occur on the shore at Portsoy, as for example the gabbro masses in Portsoy Bay with enstatite, hypersthene and labradorite, the graphic granite with microcline, muscovite and tourmaline at East Head, the chiastolite-schist west of the marble quarry, the mottled serpentine with strings of chrysotile. Resting unconformably on these metamorphic rocks, Old Red sandstone strata are met with in a few places. Thus, they cross the Spey and appear in the Tynet Burn east of Fochabers, and extend eastwards to Buckie. Outliers of these beds appear on the shore near Cullen and south of Fordyce, while the largest area extends from Gamrie east by Pennan on the north coast of Aberdeenshire to Aberdeen. The strata consist mainly of conglomerates and red sandstones, which, at Gamrie and at Tynet, are associated with a band of limestone nodules embedded in a clayey matrix, containing fish remains. The more abundant species occurring at Gamrie, as determined by Dr R. H. Traquair, are Diplacanthus striatus, Rhadinacanthus, Cheiracanthus Murchisoni, Pterichthys Milleri, Coccosteus decipiens. In view of the fossil evidence these beds have been referred to the middle or Orcadian division of this formation. In the interior near Tomintoul, another large deposit, composed of conglomerate and sandstone, occurs, which may be of the same age, though no fossils have as yet been obtained from these beds. There is a widespread covering of boulder clay especially in the northern part bordering the shore, where it contains fragments of shells and includes numerous boulders which have been carried eastwards from the high grounds west of the Moray Firth. In the brickclays at Blackpots to the north-west of Banff, fragments of shells also occur together with Jurassic fossils. Shelly sands have been recorded near the Ord south of Tillynaught near Portsoy, and shells have been found in stratified deposits on the shore near Gamrie.

Agriculture.—The soil is in general rich and productive, yielding fair crops of wheat, and excellent crops of barley, oats, &c.; and the grass and green crops are equally abundant. Oats is the predominant crop, but the demands of distillers keep up the acreage of barley. The cattle and stock hold a high character and form the staple agricultural industry. There is also a considerable amount of dairy farming. Among landlords who did much to encourage agricultural enterprise and to plant and reclaim lands, were the earls of Fife and the earls of Findlater, afterwards earls of Seafield. It was a Seafield who, in 1846, received the honorary gold medal of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, for his immense and thriving plantations of useful timber-trees, in the counties of Banff, Moray and Nairn. From the year 1811 to 1845, he had planted 18,938,224 Scots firs, 11,904,798 larches, 843,450 hardwoods; making the enormous aggregate of 31,686,472 forest trees, planted in 8223 acres of enclosed ground. The Banffshire Agricultural Association holds shows periodically for all sorts of stock and produce and agricultural implements.

Manufactures and Trade.—Woollen factories are found in Dufftown, Rothiemay and Gollachy, and engineering works in Banff, Portsoy and Keith. Distilleries are numerous and their product has a high repute. A fishing and miscellaneous trade is done at the harbours of Banff, Macduff, Buckie, Gardenstown, Portsoy, Cullen and Port Gordon; but fishing is also carried on at numerous creeks or harbours along the coast. The herring season lasts from June to September, white fishing all the year round. The fishery districts centre in Banff and Buckie. Banffshire contains large limestone deposits, and granite is also quarried.

The systems of the Great North of Scotland and the Highland railways serve the chief towns of the county and provide communication in one direction with Aberdeen, and in another with Elgin, Nairn and Inverness.

The population of Banffshire in 1891 was 61,684, and in 1901 61,488, or 97 to the square mile. In 1901 there were 499 persons speaking Gaelic and English. The chief towns are Banff (pop. in 1901, 7161), Buckie (6549), and Keith (4753), with Cullen (1936), Portsoy (1878) and Dufftown (1823). The county returns one member to parliament; the royal burghs, Banff and Cullen, belonging to the Elgin group of parliamentary burghs. Banffshire, with Aberdeen and Kincardine shires, forms a sheriffdom, and there is a resident sheriff-substitute at Banff, who sits also at Keith, Buckie and Dufftown. Most of the schools are under school-board jurisdiction. Several of them earn grants for higher education, and the county council, out of the "residue grant," subsidizes classes in agriculture, navigation, veterinary science and cookery and laundry work. The teachers of the county, with those of the shires of Aberdeen and Elgin, benefit by the bequest of James Dick (1743-1828), a West India merchant, who left over £110,000 to promote the higher learning of the schoolmasters of these shires. The annual income of £4000 is distributed among the dominies who have qualified by examination to become beneficiaries.

History.—Of the northern Picts who originally possessed the land few remains now exist beyond the cairns that are found in the districts of Rothiemay, Ballindalloch, Boharm, Glen Livet and elsewhere. "Cairn" also occurs in many place names. The advance of the Romans was practically prevented by the mountains in the south, but what is believed to have been a Roman camp may still be made out in Glen Barry. Danish invaders were more persevering and more successful. Many bloody conflicts took place between them and the Scots. Near Cullen a fierce encounter occurred in 960, and a sculptured stone at Mortlach is said to commemorate a signal victory gained by Malcolm II. over the Norsemen in 1010. The shire was the scene of much strife after the Reformation. In Glen Livet the Roman Catholics, under the marquess of Huntly, worsted the Protestants under the earl of Argyll. From 1624 to 1645 was a period of almost incessant struggle, and the Covenanting troubles, combined with the frequent conflicts of the clans, were productive of serious evils. But the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745 left the county comparatively untouched, and thereafter it became settled.

See[edit]

  • W. Cramond, Annals of Banff (New Spalding Club) (Aberdeen, 1891).
  • Dr Gordon, Chronicles of Keith, Grange, &c. (Glasgow, 1880).
  • Banffshire Year-Book (Banff).
  • Professor Dickie, Botanist's Guide to Aberdeen, Banff, &c. (Aberdeen, 1860).
  • Inventory of Charters of Cullen (Banff, 1887); and Inventory of Charters of Banff (Banff).
  • Robertson's Collections for a History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff (Spalding Club).
  • W. Watt, Aberdeenshire and Banff (Edinburgh, 1900).