Mortlach


Mortlach
   MORTLACH, a parish, in the county of Banff, 11 miles (N. E.) from Keith; containing, with the village of Dufftown, 2594 inhabitants, of whom 770 are in the village. This place, which is of very remote antiquity, was originally the seat of a bishopric; and there is still extant a charter granted by Malcolm II. to the first bishop, in which it is called Morthelac, or Morthlac, a name supposed to be a corruption of the Gaelic Morlay, signifying "a great hollow," and minutely descriptive of the situation of its church. In 1010, Malcolm obtained here a signal victory over the Danes, by whom he had been defeated in the year preceding, and before whom he was now retreating, after having lost three of his principal nobles in the previous skirmish. Arrested in their retreat by the narrowness of a pass near the church, and which also retarded the pursuit of the enemy, the flying army had time to rally and renew the conflict, in which Malcolm killed the general of the Danes with his own hand, and put his army to the rout with great slaughter. From this circumstance some writers suppose the place to have derived the appellation of Mortis-Lacus, of which its present name might be only a modification. The parish is of irregular form, fifteen miles in its greatest length and nearly twelve at its greatest breadth; it is bounded on the north by the parishes of Boharm and Botriphnie, on the east by Glass, on the south by Cabrach and Inveraven, and on the west by Aberlour. It is nearly inclosed by hills, of which the highest are the Corhabbie and the Benrinnes, the latter having an elevation of 2561 feet above the level of the sea. The surface is intersected by the small rivers Fiddich and Dullen, the former of which rises in Glenfiddich, and the latter in Glenrinnes, on the confines of Glenlivet; and after uniting their streams about a mile below the church, they flow together into the Spey near the northern extremity of the parish, which extends to the river Doveran on the south.
   The whole number of acres is 35,000, of which 5000 are under tillage, and the remainder, with the exception of 600 acres of woodland, is pasture and waste, whereof but a few acres seem capable of being brought into cultivation. The soil is in general a rich and deep loam, producing excellent crops; the system of agriculture is greatly improved, and much attention has recently been paid to the draining and reclamation of unprofitable land. Limestone of good quality is found in the parish, and slate is also quarried; granite is very general, but no quarries have hitherto been opened. In some parts are indications of alum and lead-ore, and the laminæ of some of the rocks resemble asbestos: antimony in small quantities is imbedded in the limestone rocks; and in those of grey slate, small garnets are frequently found, especially in those to the east of the river Fiddich. The plantations consist of ash, elm, oak, birch, plane, Scotch fir, and larch. Great attention is paid to the breed of cattle, which are mostly a cross between the Highland and Aberdeenshire; and numbers of sheep, chiefly of the black-faced breed, are fed. Grain is occasionally sent to the village of Dufftown, and sold to persons resorting thither for that purpose; and cattle-markets are held five times in the year. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5197. Its ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Strathbogie and synod of Moray; the patronage is vested in the Crown, and the stipend of the incumbent is £192. The manse, a very ancient building, was enlarged in 1807, and is now a comfortable residence; the glebe, which has been greatly diminished by the encroachment of the river Dullen at different times, comprises at present about five acres, valued at £8 per annum. The church, a venerable structure, was enlarged by Malcolm II. in fulfilment of his vow on the occasion of his victory over the Danes; and in the north wall are inserted three skulls of Danes slain in that battle, which are still in a state of entire preservation. It was again enlarged in 1824, and now affords accommodation to 886 persons. At Glenrinnes is a missionary church, built many years since at the expense of the heritors and inhabitants of the district; and the minister has a stipend of £60 per annum, Royal Bounty, with a house and garden, and three acres of land, rent-free. Near the parish church is a Roman Catholic chapel, a neat building erected within the last few years. The parochial school affords a good education to about ninety children; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees on the average amount to £25. Dr. John Lorimer bequeathed £200 for the maintenance of a bursar in this school, and an additional sum of £200 for an exhibition to Marischal College, Aberdeen, for the further prosecution of his studies. There is also a school at Glenrinnes, under the General Assembly, attended by about fifty scholars on the average; a circulating library is supported, and there is a small library for the use of the Sunday school. The poor have the interest of 1500 merks bequeathed by William Duff, Esq., who also gave 500 merks to the use of the schoolmaster; and £100 by Alexander Forbes, Esq., which he appropriated to the benefit only of four families. On a commanding situation on the bank of the Fiddich, are the ruins of the ancient castle of Auchindown, the founder of which is unknown; it was till lately the property of the Gordon family, in whose possession it had been for more than three centuries. A massive ring of gold, consisting of three links, was found among the ruins within the last thirty years, with an inscription which was legible when the links were placed in a particular position. Near the confluence of the rivers Fiddich and Dullen are also the remains of the castle of Balvery, situated on the summit of a bold eminence; the entrance gateway is still entire, and above the lofty entrance is the motto of the Atholl family, "Furth Fortuine and Fill the Fettris:" this castle is the property of the Earl of Fife. On the Conval hill, in this parish, are the remains of a Danish camp. A large stone, which is said to have been placed over the grave of the Danish general who was killed by Malcolm in the battle of Mortlach, now forms part of a fence; and there is an upright stone, about seven feet in height, having on one side a cross and representation of two animals, and on the other a snake, rudely sculptured.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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