A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851), Samuel Lewis


MONQUHITTER, a parish, in the district of Turriff, county of Aberdeen, 6 miles (E.) from Turriff; containing, with the villages of Cuminestown and Garmond, 2074 inhabitants. The farm on which the church was originally built was termed Montquhitter, or Monquhitter, a word signifying "the place for ensnaring the deer"; or, as others think, "the moss of desolation". From this farm the district, which was disjoined from the parish of Turriff in 1649, took its name. The parish is about ten miles in length from north to south, and seven or eight in breadth; and comprises 20,000 acres, of which two-thirds are in tillage, 300 acres in plantations, and part of the remainder swampy ground, moss, and heath, which in many places are undergoing agricultural improvement. The surface to a great extent presents a series of undulations; but the scenery is in general rather uninviting, the hills being bleak and barren, with but very little wood, and a part of the lower grounds undrained. Of late years the aspect of the parish has been vastly improved by the extension of farming operations. The small stream of Asleed, running towards the south, separates this parish from those of New Deer and Methlick, and falls into the river Ythan. Another stream, called the Water of Idoch, which gives its name to a valley, flows by the parish church and near the village of Cuminestown, and, passing westward to the parish of Turriff, where it takes the name of the burn of Turriff, falls into the Doveron. Both these streams are augmented in their course by numerous tributary rivulets, and are well stocked with small fine-flavoured trout. The SOIL on the cultivated grounds consists of two distinct kinds, one a reddish loam, and the other a black mould of considerable depth, and both incumbent on a clayey subsoil interspersed with pebbles. Among other crops, oats of excellent quality are produced; and the newly-ploughed lands, after being well limed, bear ryegrass and clover in perfection: the richer description of grass-pasture is not to be found here to any great extent, the disposition of the land to return to a state of heath, with which the parish was formerly covered, rendering it impossible to keep it long exempt from tillage. Some spirited improvements have been carried out by the present proprietor of Auchry, who, on an opportunity occurring, has taken into his own hands the land formerly let to tenants and crofters, and improved it according to the newest and most esteemed systems of husbandry. Artificial grasses are successfully raised by this proprietor, and among other things he has introduced the planting of hedges, with the most promising effect, in a manner hitherto unknown in this part of the country. The Earl of Fife, another landowner, has likewise contributed to the improvement of the parish. The sheep, which are not numerous, are mostly of the black-faced breed: during winter, large droves of the same breed, from the inland and mountainous parts of the country, are pastured on the whins and heath in this parish, until the return of spring has dispelled the snow from their own bleak regions. Of cattle, a cross between the Buchan and the Teeswater is preferred; the Teeswater and the Galloway, which have been frequently tried, not having succeeded so well on account of the nature of the climate, the want of shelter, and the inferiority of the pasture. The proprietor of Auchry patronises the pure Hereford breed, which seems to thrive well amid the luxuriant grass, and under the shelter of the plantations, by which Auchry House is surrounded, although it would not be suited to bleak and exposed situations in the parish. Furrow-draining has been adopted in the district; and the reclaiming of waste land has been much furthered by the introduction of bone manure, which is extensively used on all the grounds. Guano and other manures have also been tried with success; and the facility of exporting cattle to London by steam navigation has given a powerful impulse to the efforts of those employed in breeding and fattening beasts for the market. The farm-houses, which in general are thatched with straw or heather, are small, but adapted to the size of the farms. In this parish the substratum is a soft kind of red sandstone, much mixed with iron-ore: the stone is raised in large blocks, and used for building; but on account of its friable character when exposed to the weather, it is not in much esteem. The annual value of real property in Monquhitter is £5419.

The only mansion is Auchry, a plain edifice, purchased in 1830, with the principal part of the estate, by the present proprietor from the family of Joseph Cumine, Esq. That gentleman, on assuming the management of his estate in 1739, commenced extensive improvements in the district in every branch of husbandry, and became distinguished for the impulse which he gave to agricultural pursuits throughout the north of Scotland. He also founded the village of Cuminestown. Besides this village, the parish contains that of Garmond; and a daily post has been established at the former place by the influence of the present proprietor of Auchry: the whole of the roads in the district are in very bad condition. The grain raised here is forwarded to Banff and Macduff, both about fourteen miles distant, whence lime and coal are brought in return. The cattle are sold at the markets of Turriff, New Deer, and other places; and the dairy produce is disposed of to general dealers resident here, who send it to Aberdeen and Leith. An annual fair is held at Cuminestown, for cattle and horses, on the last Thursday in April or the first in May; and the proprietor has established several other markets. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Turriff, synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of the Earl of Fife: the minister's stipend is about £190, with a manse one of the most spacious in the neighbourhood, and about ten acres of very excellent land. The church, which is conveniently situated near the villages, is an unadorned and uncomfortable edifice, accommodating 1000 persons; it was built in 1764, and increased by the addition of an aisle in 1792. A chapel of ease was erected in Fyvie, in 1833, for the benefit of the remote parts of that parish and Monquhitter; a district of the latter, containing 195 persons, being ecclesiastically annexed to it. There is a small episcopal chapel, a tasteful building; and the members of the Free Church have a place of worship, the minister of which resides in an elegant cottage erected as a manse for his use. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches; the master receives a salary of £34, and about £23 fee and also shares in the Dick bequest. The minister of the parish has the patronage of a bursary at King's College, Aberdeen, founded in 1813 by Mr. James Cruickshank, of Touxhill, in the parish of New Deer, and only to be held by individuals of the name either of Cruickshank, or of Top or Tap. Poor householders who are not paupers have the benefit of a charitable bequest of £200 by Mr. Grieve, the proceeds of whic are annually distributed. A savings' bank, instituted a few years since, is in a flourishing condition.

[From Samuel Lewis A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851) - copyright Mel Lockie 2016]