A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851), Samuel Lewis


OYNE, a parish, in the district of Garioch, county of ABERDEEN containing 796 inhabitants. This parish is bounded on the south by the river Don, which separates it from Monymusk: the Shevock, a tributary of the Ury, separates it on the north-west from lusch and Culsamond; and the Ury itself, on the north, from Rayne. The latter river is joined on the east, on the borders of Chapel of Garioch, by the stream of the Gady, which intersects the parish. Oyne is of irregular figure, and measures in extreme length six miles, and three miles and a half in breadth; comprising 11,000 acres, of which 3200 are under tillage, 450 in natural grass, furze, and hill pasture, 2000 in wood and coppice, and the remainder in heath, moss, and outlying rock. Its surface is boldly distinguished by the lofty mountain of Benochee, "the mountain of mist", or "the mountain of paps", extending from east to west about five miles, and from north to south about three and a half, and rising nearly 1400 feet from its base, and 1677 feet above the level of the sea. This eminence has on its summit six round protuberances, the highest being called the "mother top". It is a royal forest or commonty, with certain rights granted by charters to estates in the vicinity, but is surrounded for about three-fourths of its ample extent by cultivated grounds belonging to this parish. The scenery, which embraces much diversity of surface, and a large proportion of wood, is in some parts picturesque and beautiful, and derives additional interest from its winding streams. The river Don, in its course along the boundary of Oyne, affords excellent salmon and trout-fishing; and the Ury, and its tributary the Gady, are well stocked with trout, eels, and pike. Though a boundary of the parish, the Don is distant from the most populous and cultivated part of it, and accessible only to the occupants of one property lying on the south side of Benochee.

In general the soil is a rich fertile earth, especially near the church and along the course of the Gady, where the crops are usually early: on the sides of the mountain, and towards the south, it is inferior, being much mixed with rocky or sandy deposits; but it is still for the most part of good average quality. The principal grain raised is oats and bear, the amount being nearly 6000 quarters a year; and black-cattle, chiefly of the native breed, also produce a profitable return, about 1200 head being commonly in stock, and 200 annually sold at the age of three years. Few sheep comparatively are kept; those on the hills are the black-faced, and some few are fed on the lower grounds of a larger and mixed breed, principally for the sake of the lambs and wool. The swine formerly reared, which were remarkable for their high back-bones, long snouts, and strong wiry bristles, have given place to a very improved shortlegged cross from the continental breeds. The husbandry partakes of all the best usages of the surrounding districts, and is altogether on a respectable footing; the old system of in-field and out-field is exploded, and the rotation of crops has been introduced. The implements of agriculture are constructed on the most approved principles. Large tracts of waste land have been reclaimed and cultivated within the present century, and most of the farms have the appendage of a good threshing-mill, driven either by horses or by water. The prevailing rock is red granite, of which the craggy tops of the mountain of Benochee consist; it also lies on the sides of the hill in large blocks, and beneath in masses, capable of being cut out to almost any size, and supplying an excellent material for various purposes. The stone used in the docks at Sheerness was quarried from the south side of Benochee, about twenty or thirty years ago. In the mountain are also Scotch topaz, felspar, and jasper, embedded in the granite. The rocks entirely change towards the northern base, and whinstone alone is found, of a dark-blue colour, and very compact texture, well adapted for dykes and common walls. Beds of peat-moss cover the rocky tops of the mountain, and the inhabitants of this and some neighbouring parishes obtain thence a plentiful supply of good peat fuel. Coal is also used occasionally, being brought from Newcastle to Aberdeen, and thence by canal to Port-Elphinstone, about eight miles distant. The annual value of real property in the parish is £3113.

Westhall, a mansion in the northern part of Oyne, is ornamented with beautifully laid-out gardens and grounds; and the plantations, formed in the seventeenth century, contain ash-trees, elm, beech, plane, lime, and holly, some of them of considerable size. The mansion of Pittodrie, which, like the ancient mansion of Westhall, has been enlarged and modernised, is situated on high ground on the east side of the mountain, bordering on Chapel of Garioch, and is surrounded with plantations of larch and other trees, among which are Scotch firs of the finest kind. Tillyfour, on the south side of Benochee, and once belonging to the Earls of Mar, is an old mansion with a slated roof; it is situated in the vicinity of some extensive coppices of oak and birch, producing a valuable revenue from their bark, and in the same part are good plantations of fir. There are considerable facilities of communication. Two branches of the turnpike-road from Inverury pass through the parish, one leading by Pitmachie towards Huntly, and the other by Insch to the same place; and besides other coaches, the Inverness mail takes this route. The inhabitants send their produce, comprising grain, meal, and large quantities of butter, cheese, and eggs, to Port-Elphinstone, to be conveyed by canal to Aberdeen. Statutes or markets are held at Pitmachie for hiring servants, just before Whitsuntide and Martinmas. There is a postoffice in the small village of Old Rain, in the parish of Rayne. Oyne is ecclesiastically in the presbytery of Garioch, synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of Captain H. Knight Erskine, of Pittodrie: the minister's stipend is £l6l, with a manse, and a glebe of eight acre valued at £15. 15. per annum. The church, situated o a gentle eminence at the north-east end of the parish, is a small plain edifice with a belfry, built in 1806. There is also a place of worship for members of the Free Church. The parochial school affords instruction in Latin and mathematics, and all the usual branches; the master has a salary of £30, with a house and garden, portion of the Dick bequest, and £12. 10. fees. On th north side of Benochee are the ruins of the castle of Harthill, once an important stronghold, and the last occupier of which was a notorious freebooter who, according to tradition, on a confederacy being raised to attack him, set fire to the building and fled to London, where he died in the King's Bench.

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