A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851), Samuel Lewis


TOWIE, a parish, in the district of Alford, county of Aberdeen, 4½ miles (S. W.) from Kildrummy church; containing 74S inhabitants. This parish was formerly named Kinbethok, or Culbethok, from a cell or church endowed with a beatha or benefice in land by Gilchrist, Earl of Mar, in the twelth century, in favour of the Culdees, the primitive ecclesiastics of Scotland. In the succeeding century, when the Culdees were constituted canons regular of Monymusk, under the bishopric of St. Andrew's, the bishop of that see appropriated the lands of Culbethok, on the retrospective plea of the gift having been made without episcopal sanction. Kinbethok continued to be the name of the parish until after the Reformation. About that period, a cadet of the Forbes family obtained possession of a portion of the lands, which was named Towie from a rivulet ("north flowing stream") that characterises the situation of the manor. Towie seems to have been the name employed by the Presbyterian party in compliment to the then Presbyterian house of Forbes, to designate the parish, of which one of the manors, of this name, was held by them. A castle, or manorial residence, begun by the first or second Forbes, had been so far built as to be partially inhabited, when a party of unreformed Gordons destroyed it and its unfortunate inmates by fire. The names, however, of the parties engaged or suffering in this catastrophe, cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, as the metrical legend that records it confounds the circumstances with others of a like nature which are not connected with it.

The Parish is nearly four miles in length, and about three miles and a half in breadth. It is of pretty regular form, but its superficial contents are not correctly known. Nearly 11000 acres of the land, however, are arable; and the remainder, with the exception of a moderate extent of woodland and plantations, is hill pasture, moor, and waste. The surface is abruptly diversified, and almost surrounded with hills of considerable height, the Soecoch hills, on the south-east, attaining an elevation of 2000 feet above the level of the sea; the hills in the interior are mostly of undulating form, and covered with heath. In general the aspect is cheerful and well cultivated, but the higher parts of the hills are the abode of grouse and other game. The river Don traverses the parish from west to east, dividing it into two nearly equal portions, and making in its course several graceful windings. From the rapidity of its current along a narrow gravelly channel, it frequently overflows its banks, and lays waste the low lands on either side. The water of Deskry bounds the parish for almost a mile on the west, and taking a north-western course flows into the Don; the burn of Kindie runs along the north-western boundary of the parish into the same river, which also receives several smaller streams that have their rise in the south and southeast of Towie. The Don abounds with trout of large size and of very superior quality, and formerly salmon were taken in great numbers; but since the use of stake-nets at the mouth, and cruives in the lower parts of the stream, few salmon have ascended so high up the river. The moors are the resort of grouse, partridges, snipes, woodcocks, wild-ducks, &c., affording ample recreation for sportsmen; many hares are to be found, and there are considerable numbers of roe-deer in several parts, with occasionally red deer.

For the most part the soil is a light friable loam, of no great depth, resting on a gravelly bottom; but in some few places clay, with a hard retentive subsoil. The chief crops are oats and barley, potatoes, some flax, and the various grasses; and within the last few years, the cultivation of vegetables of most kinds has gradually increased. Husbandry has been greatly improved. Much waste land has been reclaimed; and the steep acclivities of the hills, previously considered as inaccessible to the plough, are now under good cultivation to a considerable height above their base. The lands have been drained and partly inclosed; and the farm houses and offices, with few exceptions, are substantial and commodious. A due regard is paid to a regular rotation of crops, and most of the more recent improvements in the construction of agricultural implements have been adopted. The hills afford good pasture for sheep and black-cattle, of which numbers are reared, and much attention is paid to the improvement of the breeds; the sheep, when fattened, are sent chiefly to the Aberdeen market, and the black- cattle sold when young to dealers for the supply of the English markets. There are still some considerable remains of ancient wood in the north-western part of the parish, and the plantations have lately been extended. The rocks are mainly of the trap, magnesian, and primitive limestone formations. Limestone was formerly wrought for agricultural purposes; but owing to its inferior quality, and the difficulty of obtaining fuel for burning it into lime, the working of it has been discontinued; and though there are pretty certain indications of freestone, yet from the wet and low situation in which the material occurs, it has not been thought advisable to open any quarries. The annual value of real property in the parish is £2383 There are no villages. The St. Andrew Masonic lodge, here, was instituted in 1814, and a spacious hall erected in 1821; the buildings comprise also an excellent and well-frequented inn. A public library, which contains more than 500 volumes on theology, history, and general literature, was established in 1827, and is supported by subscription. Fairs, chiefly for cattle, are held near the Masonic lodge, at Glenkindie, on the first Monday after Trinity Muir fair in April, and the first Saturday after Keith fair in September; there are fairs for hiring servants on the day after Whitsuntide and after Martinmas. Facility of communication is afforded by the Aberdeen turnpike-road, which passes through the north of the parish; by the old road from that city, which intersects it on the south; by roads kept in repair by statute labour; and bridges over the river Don. Ecclesiastically this place is within the limits of the presbytery of Alford and synod of Aberdeen. The minister's stipend is £159. 6. 1., of which about one-sixth part i paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum: patron. Sir Alexander Leith K.C.B. Towie church, situated nearly in the centre of the parish, is a plain substantial structure with a small campanile-turret. The parochial school affords instruction to about ninety children: the master has a salary of £28, with a house and garden, and the fees averag £20; he has also a portion of the Dick bequest. O the ancient castle of Towie, one square tower is remaining, but in a very ruinous state. There are ruins of chapels at Nether Towie, Kinbattoch, Belnaboth, Ley, and Sinnahard; and on the farm of Kinbattoch are several tumuli in which, on being opened in 1750, were found kistvaens containing urns, human bones, trinkets, and some Roman medals. On the Glaschul, or "grey moor", are also tumuli, which appear to have been raised after some conflict in the neighbourhood. At Fechley is a mound sixty feet in height, 200 feet in length, and 127 feet in breadth, surrounded at the base by a broad fosse, and on the summit of which are the remains of a vitrified fort.

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