1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kincardineshire

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KINCARDINESHIRE, or The Mearns, an eastern county of Scotland, bounded E. by the North Sea, S. and S.W. by Forfarshire, and N.W. and N. by Aberdeenshire. Area, 243,974 acres, or 381 sq. m. In the west and north-west the Grampians are the, predominant feature. The highest of their peaks is Mount Battock (2555 ft.), where the counties of Aberdeen, Forfar and Kincardine meet, but there are a score of hills exceeding 1500 ft. in height. In the extreme north, on the confines of Aberdeenshire, the Hill of Fare, famous for its sheep walks, attains an altitude of 1545 ft. In the north the county slopes from the Grampians to the picturesque and finely-wooded valley of the Dee, and in the south it falls to the Howe (Hollow) of the Mearns, which is a continuation north-eastwards of Strathmore. The principal rivers are Bervie Water (20 m. long), flowing south-eastwards to the North Sea; the Water of Feugh (20 m.) taking a north-easterly direction and falling into the Dee at Banchory, and forming near its mouth a beautiful cascade; the Dye (15 m.) rising in Mount Battock and ending its course in the Feugh; Luther Water (14 m.) springing not far from the castle of Drumtochty and meandering pleasantly to its junction with the North Esk; the Cowie (13 m.) and the Carron (8½ m.) entering the sea at Stonehaven. The Dee and North Esk serve as boundary streams during part of their course, the one of Aberdeenshire, the other of Forfarshire. Loch Loirston, in the parish of Nigg, and Loch Lumgair, in Dunnottar parish, both small, are the only lakes in the shire. Of the glens Glen Dye in the north centre of the county is remarkable for its beauty, and the small Den Fenella, to the south-east of Laurencekirk, contains a picturesque waterfall. Its name perpetuates the memory of Fenella, daughter of a thane of Angus, who was slain here after betraying Kenneth II. to his enemies, who (according to local tradition) made away with him in Kincardine Castle. Excepting in the vicinity of St Cyrus, the coast from below Johnshaven to Girdle Ness presents a bold front of rugged cliffs, with an average height of from 100 to 250 ft., interrupted only by occasional creeks and bays, as at Johnshaven, Gourdon, Bervie, Stonehaven, Portlethen, Findon, Cove and Nigg.

Geology. — The great fault which traverses Scotland from shore to shore passes through this county from Craigeven Bay, about a mile north of Stonehaven, by Fenella Hill to Edzell. On the northern side of this line are the old crystalline schists of the Dalradian group; on the southern side Old Red Sandstone occupies all the remaining space. Good exposures of the schists are seen, repeatedly folded, in the cliffs between Aberdeen and Stonehaven. They consist of a lower series of greenish slates and a higher, more micaceous and schistose series with grits; bands of limestone occur in these rocks near Bunchory. Besides the numerous minor flexures the schists are bent into a broad synclinal fold which crosses the county, its axis lying in a south-westerly-north-easterly direction. Rising through the schists are several granite masses, the largest being that forming the high ground around Mt Battock; south of the Dee are several smaller masses, some of which have been extensively quarried. The lower part of the Old Red Sandstone consists of flags, red sandstones and purple clays in great thickness; these are followed by coarse conglomerates, well seen in the cliff at Dunnottar Castle, with ashy grits and some thin sheets of diabase. The diabase forms the Bruxie and Leys Hills and some minor elevations. Above the volcanic series more red sandstones, conglomerates and marls appear. The Old Red Sandstone is folded synclinally in a direction continuing the vale of Strathmore; south of this is an anticline, as may be seen on the coast between St Cyrus and Kinneff. Glacial striae on the higher ground and debris on the lower ground show that the direction taken by the ice flow was south-eastward on the hills but as the shore was approached it gradually took on an easterly and finally a northerly direction.

Climate and Agriculture. — The climate is healthy, but often cold, owing to the exposure to east winds. The average temperature for the year is 45° F., for July 58°, and for January 37°. The average annual rainfall is 34 in. Much of the Grampian territory is occupied by grouse moors, but the land by the Dee, in the Howe and along the coast, is scientifically farmed and yields well. The soil of the Howe is richer and stronger than that in the Dee valley, but the most fertile region is along the coast, where the soil is generally deep loam resting on clay, although in some places it is poor and thin, or stiff and cold. Oats are the principal crop, wheat is not largely grown, but the demands of the distillers maintain a very considerable acreage under barley. Rather more than one-tenth of the total area is under wood. Turnips form the main green crop, but potatoes are extensively raised. A little more than half the holdings consist of 50 acres and under. Great attention is paid to livestock. Shorthorns are the most common breed, but the principal home-bred stock is a cross between shorthorned and polled, though there are many valuable herds of pure polled. Cattle-feeding is carried on according to the most advanced methods. Blackfaced sheep are chiefly kept on the hill runs, Cheviots or a cross with Leicesters being usually found on the lowland farms. Most of the horses are employed in connexion with the cultivation of the soil, but several good strains, including Clydesdales, are retained for stock purposes. Pigs are also reared in considerable numbers.

Other Industries. — Apart from agriculture, the principal industry is the fishing, of which Stonehaven is the centre. The coast being dangerous and the harbours difficult in rough weather, the fishermen often run great risks. The village of Findon (pron. Finnan) has given its name to the well-known smoked haddocks, which were first cured in this way at that hamlet. The salmon fisheries of the sea and the rivers yield a substantial annual return. Manufactures are of little more than local importance. Woollens are made at Stonehaven, and at Bervie, Laurencekirk and a few other places flax-spinning and weaving are carried on. There are also some distilleries, breweries and tanneries. Stonehaven, Gourdon and Johnshaven are the chief ports for seaborne trade.

The Deeside railway runs through the portion of the county on the northern bank of the Dee. The Caledonian and North British railways run to Aberdeen via Laurencekirk to Stonehaven, using the same metals, and there is a branch line of the N.B.R. from Montrose to Bervie. There are also coaches between Blairs and Aberdeen, Bervie and Stonehaven, Fettercairn and Edzell, Banchory and Birse, and other points.

Population and Government. — The population was 35,492 in 1891, and 40,923 in 1901, when 103 persons spoke Gaelic and English. The chief town is Stonehaven (pop. in 1901, 4577) with Laurencekirk (1512) and Banchory (1475), but part of the city of Aberdeen, with a population of 9386, is within the county. The county returns one member to parliament, and Bervie, the only royal burgh, belongs to the Montrose group of parliamentary burghs. Kincardine is united in one sheriffdom with the shires of Aberdeen and Banff, and one of the Aberdeen sheriffs-substitute sits at Stonehaven. The county is under school-board jurisdiction. The academy at Stonehaven and a few of the public schools earn grants for higher education. The county council hands over the “residue” grant to the county secondary education committee, which expends it in technical education grants. At Blairs, in the north-east of the shire near the Dee, is a Roman Catholic college for the training of young men for the priesthood.

History. — The annals of Kincardineshire as a whole are almost blank. The county belonged of old to the district of Pictavia and apparently was overrun for a brief period by the Romans. In the parish of Fetteresso are the remains of the camp of Raedykes, in which, according to tradition, the Caledonians under Galgacus were lodged before their battle with Agricola. It is also alleged that in the same district Malcolm I. was killed (954) whilst endeavouring to reduce the unruly tribes of this region. Mearns, the alternative name for the county, is believed to have been derived from Mernia, a Scottish king, to whom the land was granted, and whose brother, Angus, had obtained the adjoining shire of Forfar. The antiquities consist mostly of stone circles, cairns, tumuli, standing stones and a structure in the parish of Dunnottar vaguely known as a “Picts' kiln.” By an extraordinary reversion of fortune the town which gave the shire its name has practically vanished. It stood about 2 m. N.E. of Fettercairn, and by the end of the 16th century had declined to a mere hamlet, being represented now only by the ruins of the royal castle and an ancient burial-ground. The Bruces, earls of Elgin, also bear the title of earl of Kincardine.

See A. Jervise, History and Traditions of the Lands of the Lindsays (1853), History and Antiquities of the Mearns (1858), Memorials of Angus and the Mearns (1861); J. Anderson, The Black Book of Kincardineshire (Stonehaven, 1879) ; C. A. Mollyson, The Parish of Fordoun (Aberdeen, 1893); A. C. Cameron, The History of Fettercairn (Paisley, 1899).