Oathlaw


Oathlaw
   OATHLAW, Finhaven, or Finavon, a parish, in the county of Forfar, 5 miles (N. by E.) from Forfar; containing 420 inhabitants. The original name of this parish appears from ancient documents to have been Fyniven or Finavon; but no precise account can be given, of the time or cause of its change to Oathlaw. It is supposed, however, upon the authority of an old record, that a chapel formerly stood upon some property called Oathlaw, and that, when the ancient church of Finavon fell to decay, this chapel, being used as the church, gave the name of the estate on which it was situated to the whole parish. The appellation Finavon is compounded of two Gaelic words, Fin, signifying "white or clear," and Avon or Aven, signifying "a water or a river:" the origin of the word Oathlaw is uncertain. The parish seems in early times to have been the theatre of extensive and important military operations. Upon the beautiful hill of Finhaven, which rises to a height of 1500 feet above the level of the surrounding country, stands a celebrated vitrified fort, in the shape of a parallelogram, and extending about 476 feet from east to west. It is a very strong work, formed upon military principles, and is supposed to have been the head post of some warlike chief, with his several native tribes, and designed to command the passes in this part of the country. On the low grounds, about two and a half miles to the north-west, are the remains of an extensive Roman camp called Battledykes, thought to have been capable of containing between 30,000 and 40,000 men. It is situated at the entrance of the great valley of Strathmore, commanding the whole of the Lowlands beneath the base of the Grampians, and also the passes of the Highlands; and appears, among other important reasons, to have been constructed for the sake of watching and awing the fort on the hill of Finhaven. The ancient castle of Finhaven, the ruins of which are still to be seen on the north side of the hill, was for a long succession of years, in former times, the scene of great adventures. It was the residence of the well-known Earl of Crawfurd, who, from his ferocity, received the name of "the tiger earl," and whose prisoners were hanged on iron spikes which yet appear on the castle walls; he was chief of the Lindsays, who possessed a great part of the county, and his furious contests with the Ogilvys are among the most memorable conflicts of the kind recorded in history.
   The parish is about five miles in length and about one and a half in breadth, and contains 3870 acres. It is bounded on the north by the parish of Tannadice; on the south by the parishes of Rescobie and Aberlemno; on the east by Aberlemno; and on the west by the parish of Kirriemuir. The surface is tolerably uniform, except in the southern quarter, in which the hill of Finhaven, cultivated to the very top, and partly covered with larch and beech, rises to the considerable height already mentioned. Tradition reports the parish to have been formerly part of a great forest called the forest of Claton. The chief properties now are the estates of Finhaven and Newbarns, the former of which comprehends four-fifths of the whole lands, and was purchased in 1815 by the Marquess of Huntly, for £65,000. The river Esk intersects the parish in several places; it is here 140 feet broad, and its banks being low, it frequently overflows to the great injury of the neighbouring grounds. The only other stream is the Lemno rivulet, which, after a winding course of twelve or thirteen miles round the hill of Finhaven, falls into the Esk, only about a mile north from its source. The soil is in general clayey, and its retentive nature has been found, especially through the scarcity of lime, a great impediment to agricultural improvement. About 2850 acres are occasionally cultivated or in tillage; 900 acres are in wood, and 120 waste. All kinds of green crops and grain are grown; of the latter, oats are most cultivated; and as the character of the husbandry is very good, the crops are heavy and of fine quality. The cattle are the black Angus: the few sheep that are kept are of the common black-faced breed, with some Cheviots, Leicesters, and South-Downs. This parish was behind most others at the commencement of the present century in its husbandry; but so rapid has been its advance since that period in the most approved usages, particularly in thorough-draining, that it stands now upon a very high footing. Much land has been reclaimed; thorn-hedge inclosures have been extensively formed, as well as plantations made; and the farm-buildings are also in very good condition. The chief obstacle to improvement lies in the scarcity of manure; Montrose, the nearest sea-port, being sixteen miles distant. The prevailing rock is sandstone, of which a quarry is moderately wrought for building and other purposes.
   The population are mostly agricultural: till within the last few years a spinning-mill was in operation, which employed about sixty hands. Coal is the fuel generally used, being brought from Montrose and Arbroath: an attempt was made by Mr. Ford, a late proprietor, to procure coal in the parish, but though he bored down to the depth of 160 feet, his search for it was unsuccessful. A daily post from Forfar to Brechin passes through; and the Aberdeen and Perth turnpike-road runs along the south side of the parish: upon this road a good public coach travels every day. There is a bridge over the Esk, and five small bridges cross the Lemno, all in good condition. Near the church is a very small village. The rateable annual value of Oathlaw is £3056. Its ecclesiastical affairs are directed by the presbytery of Forfar and synod of Angus and Mearns; patron, J. Carnegy, Esq., of Finhaven. There is a manse, with a glebe of about ten acres of arable land; and the stipend is £158, communion elements included. The church is a neat building with a finely proportioned tower, situated about the centre of the parish, and surrounded by a number of old ashtrees; it was built in 1815, is in tolerable condition, and seats upwards of 200 persons. The ancient church stood on the bank of the Esk. There is a benefaction called "Hanton's bequest," left in 1833 for the poor, at the discretion of the minister and elders. A parochial school is supported, in which Latin and the usual branches of education are taught; the master receives a salary of £34. 4., with about £10 fees, and has the accommodation of house and garden. There is also a parochial library, consisting of several hundreds of volumes.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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