1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aberdeenshire
ABERDEENSHIRE, a north-eastern county of Scotland, bounded N. and E. by the North Sea, S. by Kincardine, Forfar and Perth, and W. by Inverness and Banff. It has a coast-line of 65 m., and is the sixth Scottish county in area, occupying 1,261,887 acres or 1971 sq. m. The county is generally hilly, and from the south-west, near the centre of Scotland, the Grampians send out various branches, mostly to the north-east. The shire is popularly divided into five districts. Of these the first is Mar, mostly between the Dee and Don, which nearly covers the southern half of the county and contains the city of Aberdeen. It is mountainous, especially Braemar (q.v.), which contains the greatest mass of elevated land in the British Isles. The soil on the Dee is sandy, and on the Don loamy. The second district, Formartine, between the lower Don and Ythan, has a sandy coast, which is succeeded inland by a clayey, fertile, tilled tract, and then by low hills, moors, mosses and tilled land. Buchan, the third district, lies north of the Ythan, and, comprising the north-east of the county, is next in size to Mar, parts of the coast being bold and rocky, the interior bare, low, flat, undulating and in places peaty. On the coast, 6 m. S. of Peterhead, are the Bullers of Buchan—a basin in which the sea, entering by a natural arch, boils up violently in stormy weather. Buchan Ness is the most easterly point of Scotland. The fourth Garioch, in the centre of the shire, is a beautiful, undulating, loamy, fertile valley, formerly called the granary of Aberdeen. Strathbogie, the fifth district, occupying a considerable area south of the Deveron, mostly consists of hills, moors and mosses. The mountains are the most striking of the physical features of the county. Ben Macdhui (4296 ft.), a magnificent mass, the second highest mountain in Great Britain, Braeriach (4248), Cairntoul (4241), Ben-na-bhuaird (3924), Ben Avon (3843), “dark” Lochnagar (3786), the subject of a well-known song by Byron, Cairn Eas (3556), Sgarsoch (3402), Culardoch (2953), are the principal heights in the division of Mar. Farther north rise the Buck of Cabrach (2368) on the Banffshire border, Tap o’ Noth (1830), Bennachie (1698), a beautiful peak which from its central position is a landmark visible from many different parts of the county, and which is celebrated in John Imlah’s song, “O gin I were where Gadie rins,” and Foudland (1529). The chief rivers are the Dee, 90 m. long; the Don, 82 m.; the Ythan, 37 m., with mussel-beds at its mouth; the Ugie, 20 m., and the Deveron, 62 m., partly on the boundary of Banffshire. The rivers abound with salmon and trout, and the pearl mussel occurs in the Ythan and Don. A valuable pearl in the Scottish crown is said to be from the Ythan. Loch Muick, the largest of the few lakes in the county, 1310 ft. above the sea, 2½ m. long and ⅓ to ½ m. broad, lies some 8½ m. S.W. of Ballater, and has Altnagiuthasach, a royal shooting-box, near its south-western end. Loch Strathbeg, 6 m. S.E. of Fraserburgh, is only separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land. There are noted chalybeate springs at Peterhead, Fraserburgh, and Pannanich near Ballater.
Geology.—The greater part of the county is composed of crystalline schists belonging to the metamorphic rocks of the Eastern Highlands. In the upper parts of the valleys of the Dee and the Don they form well-marked groups, of which the most characteristic are (1) the black schists and phyllites, with calc-flintas, and a thin band of tremolite limestone, (2) the main or Blair Atholl limestone, (3) the quartzite. These divisions are folded on highly inclined or vertical axes trending north-east and south-west, and hence the same zones are repeated over a considerable area. The quartzite is generally regarded as the highest member of the series. Excellent sections showing the component strata occur in Glen Clunie and its tributary valleys above Braemar. Eastwards down the Dee and the Don and northwards across the plain of Buchan towards Rattray Head and Fraserburgh there is a development of biotite gneiss, partly of sedimentary and perhaps partly of igneous origin. A belt of slate which has been quarried for roofing purposes runs along the west border of the county from Turriff by Auchterless and the Foudland Hills towards the Tap o’ Noth near Gartly. The metamorphic rocks have been invaded by igneous materials, some before, and by far the larger series after the folding of the strata. The basic types of the former are represented by the sills of epidiorite and hornblende gneiss in Glen Muick and Glen Callater, which have been permeated by granite and pegmatite in veins and lenticles, often foliated. The later granites subsequent to the plication of the schists have a wide distribution on the Ben Macdhui and Ben Avon range, and on Lochnagar; they stretch eastwards from Ballater by Tarland to Aberdeen and north to Bennachie. Isolated masses appear at Peterhead and at Strichen. Though consisting mainly of biotite granite, these later intrusions pass by intermediate stages into diorite, as in the area between Balmoral and the head-waters of the Gairn. The granites have been extensively quarried at Rubislaw, Peterhead and Kemnay. Serpentine and troctolite, the precise age of which is uncertain, occur at the Black Dog rock north of Aberdeen, at Belhelvie and near Old Meldrum. Where the schists of sedimentary origin have been pierced by these igneous intrusions, they are charged with contact minerals such as sillimanite, cordierite, kyanite and andalusite. Cordierite-bearing rocks occur near Ellon, at the foot of Bennachie, and on the top of the Buck of Cabrach. A banded and mottled calc-silicate hornfels occurring with the limestone at Derry Falls, W.N.W. of Braemar, has yielded malacolite, wollastonite, brown idocrase, garnet, sphene and hornblende. A larger list of minerals has been obtained from an exposure of limestone and associated beds in Glen Gairn, about four miles above the point where that river joins the Dee. Narrow belts of Old Red Sandstone, resting unconformably on the old platform of slates and schists, have been traced from the north coast at Peterhead by Turriff to Fyvie, and also from Huntly by Gartly to Kildrummy Castle. The strata consist mainly of conglomerates and sandstones, which, at Gartly and at Rhynie, are associated with lenticular bands of andesite indicating contemporaneous volcanic action. Small outliers of conglomerate and sandstone of this age have recently been found in the course of excavations in Aberdeen. The glacial deposits, especially in the belt bordering the coast between Aberdeen and Peterhead, furnish important evidence. The ice moved eastwards off the high ground at the head of the Dee and the Don, while the mass spreading outwards from the Moray Firth invaded the low plateau of Buchan; but at a certain stage there was a marked defection northwards parallel with the coast, as proved by the deposit of red clay north of Aberdeen. At a later date the local glaciers laid down materials on top of the red clay. The committee appointed by the British Association (Report for 1897, p. 333) proved that the Greensand, which has yielded a large suite of Cretaceous fossils at Moreseat, in the parish of Cruden, occurs in glacial drift, resting probably on granite. The strata from which the Moreseat fossils were derived are not now found in place in that part of Scotland, but Mr Jukes Brown considers that the horizon of the fossils is that of the lower Greensand of the Isle of Wight or the Aptien stage of France. Chalk flints are widely distributed in the drift between Fyvie and the east coast of Buchan. At Plaidy a patch of clay with Liassic fossils occurs. At several localities between Logie Coldstone and Dinnet a deposit of diatomite (Kieselguhr) occurs beneath the peat.
Flora and Fauna.—The tops of the highest mountains have an arctic flora. At the royal lodge on Loch Muick, 1350 ft. above the sea, grow larches, vegetables, currants, laurels, roses, &c. Some ash-trees, four or five feet in girth, are growing at 1300 ft. above the sea. Trees, especially Scotch fir and larch, grow well, and Braemar is rich in natural timber, said to surpass any in the north of Europe. Stumps of Scotch fir and oak found in peat are sometimes far larger than any now growing. The mole is found at 1800 ft. above the sea, and the squirrel at 1400. Grouse, partridges and hares are plentiful, and rabbits are often too numerous. Red deer abound in Braemar, the deer forest being the most extensive in Scotland.
Climate and Agriculture.—The climate, except in the mountainous districts, is comparatively mild, owing to the proximity of much of the shire to the sea. The mean annual temperature at Braemar is 43.6° F., and at Aberdeen 45.8°. The mean yearly rainfall varies from about 30 to 37 in. The summer climate of the upper Dee and Don valleys is the driest and most bracing in the British Isles, and grain is cultivated up to 1600 ft. above the sea, or 400 to 500 ft. higher than elsewhere in North Britain. Poor, gravelly, clayey and peaty soils prevail, but tile-draining, bones and guano, and the best methods of modern tillage, have greatly increased the produce. Indeed, in no part of Scotland has a more productive soil been made out of such unpromising material. Farm-houses and steadings have much improved, and the best agricultural implements and machines are in general use. About two-thirds of the population depend entirely on agriculture. Farms are small compared with those in the south-eastern counties. Oats are the predominant crop, wheat has practically gone out of cultivation, but barley has largely increased. The most distinctive industry is cattle-feeding. A great number of the home-bred crosses are fattened for the London and local markets, and Irish animals are imported on an extensive scale for the same purpose, while an exceedingly heavy business in dead meat for London and the south is done all over the county. Sheep, horses and pigs are also raised in large numbers.
Fisheries.—A large fishing population in villages along the coast engage in the white and herring fishery, which is the next most important industry to agriculture, its development having been due almost exclusively to the introduction of steam trawlers. The total value of the annual catch, of which between a half and a third consists of herrings, amounts to £1,000,000. Haddocks are salted and rock-dried (speldings) or smoked (finnans). The ports and creeks are divided into the fishery districts of Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Aberdeen, the last of which includes also three Kincardineshire ports. The herring season for Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh is from June to September, at which time the ports are crowded with boats from other Scottish districts. There are valuable salmon-fishings—rod, net and stake-net—on the Dee, Don, Ythan and Ugie. The average annual despatch of salmon from Aberdeenshire is about 400 tons.
Other Industries.—Manufactures are mainly prosecuted in or near the city of Aberdeen, but throughout the rural districts there is much milling of corn, brick and tile making, smith-work, brewing and distilling, cart and farm-implement making, casting and drying of peat, and timber-felling, especially on Deeside and Donside, for pit-props, railway sleepers, laths and barrel staves. There are a number of paper-making establishments, most of them on the Don near Aberdeen.
The chief source of mineral wealth is the noted durable granite, which is quarried at Aberdeen, Kemnay, Peterhead and elsewhere. An acre of land on being reclaimed has yielded £40 to £50 worth of causewaying stones. Sandstone and other rocks are also quarried at different parts. The imports are mostly coal, lime, timber, iron, slate, raw materials for the textile manufactures, wheat, cattle-feeding stuffs, bones, guano, sugar, alcoholic liquors, fruits. The exports are granite (rough-dressed and polished), flax, woollen and cotton goods, paper, combs, preserved provisions, oats, barley, live and dead cattle.
Communications.—From the south Aberdeen city is approached by the Caledonian (via Perth, Forfar and Stonehaven), and the North British (via Dundee, Montrose and Stonehaven) railways, and the shire is also served by the Great North of Scotland railway, whose main line runs via Kintore and Huntly to Keith and Elgin. There are branch lines from various points opening up the more populous districts, as from Aberdeen to Ballater by Deeside, from Aberdeen to Fraserburgh (with a branch at Maud for Peterhead and at Ellon for Cruden Bay and Boddam), from Kintore to Alford, and from Inverurie to Old Meldrum and also to Macduff. By sea there is regular communication with London, Leith, Inverness, Wick, the Orkneys and Shetlands, Iceland and the continent. The highest of the macadamized roads crossing the eastern Grampians rises to a point 2200 ft. above sea-level.
Population and Government.—In 1891 the population numbered 284,036 and in 1901 it was 304,439 (of whom 159,603 were females), or 154 persons to the sq. m. In 1901 there were 8 persons who spoke Gaelic only, and 1333 who spoke Gaelic and English. The chief towns are Aberdeen (pop. in 1901, 153,503), Bucksburn (2231), Fraserburgh (9105), Huntly (4136), Inverurie (3624), Peterhead (11,794), Turriff (2273). The Supreme Court of Justiciary sits in Aberdeen to try cases from the counties of Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine. The three counties are under a sheriff, and there are two sheriffs-substitute resident in Aberdeen, who sit also at Fraserburgh, Huntly, Peterhead and Turriff. The sheriff courts are held in Aberdeen and Peterhead. The county sends two members to parliament—one for East Aberdeenshire and the other for West Aberdeenshire. The county town, Aberdeen (q.v.), returns two members. Peterhead, Inverurie and Kintore belong to the Elgin group of parliamentary burghs, the other constituents being Banff, Cullen and Elgin. The county is under school-board jurisdiction, and there are also several voluntary schools. There are higher-class schools in Aberdeen, and secondary schools at Huntly, Peterhead and Fraserburgh, and many of the other schools in the county earn grants for secondary education. The County Secondary Education Committee dispense a large sum, partly granted by the education department and partly contributed by local authorities from the “residue” grant, and support, besides the schools mentioned, local classes and lectures in agriculture, fishery and other technical subjects, in addition to subsidizing the agricultural department of the university of Aberdeen. The higher branches of education have always been thoroughly taught in the schools throughout the shire, and pupils have long been in the habit of going directly from the schools to the university.
The native Scots are long-headed, shrewd, careful, canny, active, persistent, but reserved and blunt, and without demonstrative enthusiasm. They have a physiognomy distinct from the rest of the Scottish people, and have a quick, sharp, rather angry accent. The local Scots dialect is broad, and rich in diminutives, and is noted for the use of e for o or u, f for wh, d for th, &c. So recently as 1830 Gaelic was the fireside language of almost every family in Braemar, but now it is little used.
History.—The country now forming the shires of Aberdeen and Banff was originally peopled by northern Picts, whom Ptolemy called Taixali, the territory being named Taixalon. Their town of Devana, once supposed to be the modern Aberdeen, has been identified by Prof. John Stuart with a site in the parish of Peterculter, where there are remains of an ancient camp at Normandykes, and by Dr W. F. Skene with a station on Loch Davan, west of Aboyne. So-called Roman camps have also been discovered on the upper Ythan and Deveron, but evidence of effective Roman occupation is still to seek. Traces of the native inhabitants, however, are much less equivocal. Weems or earth-houses are fairly common in the west. Relics of crannogs or lake-dwellings exist at Loch Ceander, or Kinnord, 5 m. north-east of Ballater, at Loch Goul in the parish of New Machar and elsewhere. Duns or forts occur on hills at Dunecht, where the dun encloses an area of two acres, Barra near Old Meldrum, Tap o’ Noth, Dunnideer near Insch and other places. Monoliths, standing stones and “Druidical” circles of the pagan period abound, and there are many examples of the sculptured stones of the early Christian epoch. Efforts to convert the Picts were begun by Ternan in the 5th century, and continued by Columba (who founded a monastery at Old Deer), Drostan, Maluog and Machar, but it was long before they showed lasting results. Indeed, dissensions within the Columban church and the expulsion of the clergy from Pictland by the Pictish king Nectan in the 8th century undid most of the progress that had been made. The Vikings and Danes periodically raided the coast, but when (1040) Macbeth ascended the throne of Scotland the Northmen, under the guidance of Thorfinn, refrained from further trouble in the north-east. Macbeth was afterwards slain at Lumphanan (1057), a cairn on Perkhill marking the spot. The influence of the Norman conquest of England was felt even in Aberdeenshire. Along with numerous Anglo-Saxon exiles, there also settled in the country Flemings who introduced various industries, Saxons who brought farming, and Scandinavians who taught nautical skill. The Celts revolted more than once, but Malcolm Canmore and his successors crushed them and confiscated their lands. In the reign of Alexander I. (d. 1124) mention is first made of Aberdeen (originally called Aberdôn and, in the Norse sagas, Apardion), which received its charter from William the Lion in 1179, by which date its burgesses had already combined with those of Banff, Elgin, Inverness and other trans-Grampian communities to form a free Hanse, under which they enjoyed exceptional trading privileges. By this time, too, the Church had been organized, the bishopric of Aberdeen having been established in 1150. In the 12th and 13th centuries some of the great Aberdeenshire families arose, including the earl of Mar (c. 1122), the Leslies, Freskins (ancestors of the dukes of Sutherland), Durwards, Bysets, Comyns and Cheynes, and it is significant that in most cases their founders were immigrants. The Celtic thanes and their retainers slowly fused with the settlers. They declined to take advantage of the disturbed condition of the country during the wars of the Scots independence, and made common cause with the bulk of the nation. Though John Comyn (d. 1300?), one of the competitors for the throne, had considerable interests in the shire, his claim received locally little support. In 1296 Edward I. made a triumphal march to the north to terrorize the more turbulent nobles. Next year William Wallace surprised the English garrison in Aberdeen, but failed to capture the castle. In 1303 Edward again visited the county, halting at the Castle of Kildrummy, then in the possession of Robert Bruce, who shortly afterwards became the acknowledged leader of the Scots and made Aberdeen his headquarters for several months. Despite the seizure of Kildrummy Castle by the English in 1306, Bruce’s prospects brightened from 1308, when he defeated John Comyn, earl of Buchan (d. 1313?), at Inverurie. For a hundred years after Robert Bruce’s death (1329) there was intermittent anarchy in the shire. Aberdeen itself was burned by the English in 1336, and the re-settlement of the districts of Buchan and Strathbogie occasioned constant quarrels on the part of the dispossessed. Moreover, the crown had embroiled itself with some of the Highland chieftains, whose independence it sought to abolish. This policy culminated in the invasion of Aberdeenshire by Donald, lord of the Isles, who was, however, defeated at Harlaw, near Inverurie, by the earl of Mar in 1411. In the 15th century two other leading county families appeared, Sir Alexander Forbes being created Lord Forbes about 1442, and Sir Alexander Seton Lord Gordon in 1437 and earl of Huntly in 1445. Bitter feuds raged between these families for a long period, but the Gordons reached the height of their power in the first half of the 16th century, when their domains, already vast, were enhanced by the acquisition, through marriage, of the earldom of Sutherland (1514). Meanwhile commerce with the Low Countries, Poland and the Baltic had grown apace, Campvere, near Flushing in Holland, becoming the emporium of the Scottish traders, while education was fostered by the foundation of King’s College at Aberdeen in 1497 (Marischal College followed a century later). At the Reformation so little intuition had the clergy of the drift of opinion that at the very time that religious structures were being despoiled in the south, the building and decoration of churches went on in the shire. The change was acquiesced in without much tumult, though rioting took place in Aberdeen and St Machar’s cathedral in the city suffered damage. The 4th earl of Huntly offered some resistance, on behalf of the Catholics, to the influence of Lord James Stuart, afterwards the Regent Murray, but was defeated and killed at Corrichie on the hill of Fare in 1562. As years passed it was apparent that Presbyterianism was less generally acceptable than Episcopacy, of which system Aberdeenshire remained for generations the stronghold in Scotland. Another crisis in ecclesiastical affairs arose in 1638, when the National Covenant was ordered to be subscribed, a demand so grudgingly responded to that the marquis of Montrose visited the shire in the following year to enforce acceptance. The Cavaliers, not being disposed to yield, dispersed an armed gathering of Covenanters in the affair called the Trot of Turriff (1639), in which the first blood of the civil war was shed. The Covenanters obtained the upper hand in a few weeks, when Montrose appeared at the bridge of Dee and compelled the surrender of Aberdeen, which had no choice but to cast in its lot with the victors. Montrose, however, soon changed sides, and after defeating the Covenanters under Lord Balfour of Burleigh (1644), delivered the city to rapine. He worsted the Covenanters again after a stiff fight on the 2nd of July 1645, at Alford, a village in the beautiful Howe of Alford. Peace was temporarily restored on the “engagement” of the Scots commissioners to assist Charles I. On his return from Holland in 1650 Charles II. was welcomed in Aberdeen, but in little more than a year General Monk entered the city at the head of the Cromwellian regiments. The English garrison remained till 1659, and next year the Restoration was effusively hailed, and prelacy was once more in the ascendant. Most of the Presbyterians conformed, but the Quakers, more numerous in the shire and the adjoining county of Kincardine than anywhere else in Scotland, were systematically persecuted. After the Revolution (1688) episcopacy passed under a cloud, but the clergy, yielding to force majeure, gradually accepted the inevitable, hoping, as long as Queen Anne lived, that prelacy might yet be recognized as the national form of Church government. Her death dissipated these dreams, and as George I., her successor, was antipathetic to the clergy, it happened that Jacobitism and episcopalianism came to be regarded in the shire as identical, though in point of fact the non-jurors as a body never countenanced rebellion. The earl of Mar raised the standard of revolt in Braemar (6th of September 1715); a fortnight later James was proclaimed at Aberdeen cross; the Pretender landed at Peterhead on the 22nd of December, and in February 1716 he was back again in France. The collapse of the first rising ruined many of the lairds, and when the second rebellion occurred thirty years afterwards the county in the main was apathetic, though the insurgents held Aberdeen for five months, and Lord Lewis Gordon won a trifling victory for Prince Charles Edward at Inverurie (23rd of December 1745). The duke of Cumberland relieved Aberdeen at the end of February 1746, and in April the Young Pretender was a fugitive. Thereafter the people devoted themselves to agriculture, industry and commerce, which developed by leaps and bounds, and, along with equally remarkable progress in education, transformed the aspect of the shire and made the community as a whole one of the most prosperous in Scotland.
See W. Watt, History of Aberdeen and Banff (Edinburgh, 1900); Collections for a History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff (edited by Dr Joseph Robertson, Spalding Club); Sir A. Leith-Hay, Castles of Aberdeenshire (Aberdeen, 1887); J. Davidson, Inverurie and the Earldom of the Garioch (Edinburgh, 1878); Pratt, Buchan (rev. by R. Anderson), (Aberdeen, 1900); A. I. M‘Connochie, Deeside (Aberdeen, 1895).