Kirriemuir

   KIRRIEMUIR, a burgh of barony, market-town, and parish, in the county of Forfar; containing, with the village of Northmuir, 7085 inhabitants, of whom 3067 are in the town, 6 miles (W. N. W.) from Forfar, and 20 (N. by W.) from Dundee. This place derives its name, which is of disputed origin, most probably from its local appearance and position, which would equally justify its appellation, in the Gaelic signifying "a large hollow," or, as is supposed by some, "a wide district." With the exception of sanguinary conflicts between the chieftains of the several clans, during the feudal times, there are no events of historical importance connected with the place. It was usual in the fourteenth century for the Highlanders beyond the Grampian hills to form themselves into bands under some warlike chieftain, and make depredations in this part of the country; and in 1392, three chiefs commanded by Duncan Stewart, natural son of the Earl of Buchan, came to ravage the district, when a battle took place near the town, in which Sir John Ogilvy, of this place, with many of his retinue, was slain. In 1411, Donald, Lord of the Isles, a firm adherent of the English interest, who acted as an arbitrary and despotic prince, advanced with his followers to Kirriemuir, to prosecute his claim to the earldom of Ross, in which he was opposed by Lord Ogilvy, at that time sheriff of Angus, who mustered his warlike vassals, and, with the assistance of the Earl of Mar, obtained a victory over the invader, whom he defeated with great loss. In 1445, a memorable conflict occurred between the clans of the Ogilvys and the Lindsays, in which it is said not less than 500 of the former were slain on the field of battle. At a subsequent period, a bitter feud arose between the royal burgh of Forfar and this place, originating in some disputed ground, called the Muir Moss, which was claimed by both towns, and where a battle was eventually fought, in which the inhabitants of Kirriemuir had the advantage. Among the families that have been connected with the place is that of Ogilvy, of Airlie, a collateral branch of the Gilchrists, earls of Angus: its ancestor obtained from William the Lion a grant of the barony of Ogilvy, whence he took his name. His descendant, Sir James Ogilvy, was in great favour with James IV., who created him a peer of the realm by the title of Baron Ogilvy, of Airlie; and the seventh lord, in consideration of important services rendered to Charles I. of England, was by that monarch created Earl of Airlie in 1639.
   The town is pleasantly situated, partly on a plain and partly on rising ground, and consists of streets irregularly planned, from which numerous others branch off in various directions, with some handsome ranges of houses in the upper part. From the upper part is an extensive and richly-varied prospect over the whole vale of Strathmore, with its towns, castles, churches, seats, plantations, rivers, and lakes, and the other picturesque and romantic features that enliven and characterize its surface. The streets are paved and kept in order by statute labour; the town is well lighted by a company, and the inhabitants are scantily supplied with water. A public library, in which is a large collection of volumes of general literature, is supported by subscription; and there is also a reading and news room, furnished with daily papers and periodical publications. The chief trade carried on here, and that to which the town is indebted for its prosperity, is the manufacture of brown linen, introduced into this part of the country about the middle of the eighteenth century, since which time it has steadily continued to increase, now affording employment to about 3000 persons. The manufacture has maintained itself at this place in rivalry with towns more advantageously situated; and it has attained to such perfection that considerable quantities of yarn are sent here from Montrose and Dundee, to be manufactured for those markets. The average number of pieces made annually exceeds 50,000, containing 6,500,000 yards. The post-office has a daily delivery; and a branch of the British Linen Company's bank has been established in the town. The market, which is abundantly supplied and numerously attended, is on Friday; and fairs are held on the hill at the upper extremity of the town, on the Wednesday after the 24th of July and the Wednesday after the 19th October, for sheep; and, on a smaller scale, in June and December, on the Wednesdays after Glammis fairs. Means of communication are afforded by a good turnpike-road, and by bridges over the Esk and Prosen; and the Dundee railroad passes within four miles of the town. This place was a burgh of royalty at a very remote period, and is subject to a baron, who had formerly unlimited jurisdiction both in civil and criminal cases, but whose power, since the abolition of hereditary jurisdictions, has been greatly diminished. A bailie is appointed by the baron, Lord Douglas; but his jurisdiction is limited in civil cases to pleas not exceeding forty shillings, and in criminal cases to offences punishable by fines not above twenty shillings, or imprisonment not beyond one month. There is a justice-of-peace court held here for the district, including the parishes of Glenisla, Lintrathen, Airlie, Kingoldrum, Cortachy, Tannadice, and Oathlaw; and the peace of the town is preserved by a sufficient number of constables. A trades' hall was some time ago erected by the various friendly societies of the place; the lower part is now let for shops, and the upper part has been recently appropriated as a place of worship for members of the Relief. There is also a small prison for the temporary confinement of vagrants, and offenders against the peace, till brought to trial.
   The parish, which is situated to the north of the vale of Strathmore, is divided into two extensive districts by an intervening portion of the parish of Kingoldrum. The northern district is thinly peopled, is nine miles in length, and from two to four in breadth, and comprises 18,000 acres, of which 2000 are arable, interspersed with portions of fine pasture and meadow, 500 woodland and plantations, and 15,500 mountain pasture and waste. The southern district of the parish is five miles in length, and of nearly equal breadth, and comprises about 16,000 acres, of which 11,000 are arable, 2000 woodland and plantations, 2000 moor and pasture, and the remainder roads, water, and waste. The surface in the north is hilly and mountainous, extending on both sides of the river Prosen, and hemmed in by a continued chain of mountains, of which the most conspicuous is the Catlaw, the first in the range of the Grampians, having an elevation of 2264 feet above the level of the sea, and by some writers supposed to be the Mons Grampius of Tacitus. These mountain ridges are indented with numerous small glens and occasional openings; and from many of the steep acclivities descend torrents, which afterwards form tributaries to the Prosen. The surface of the southern division of the parish is nearly level, in some parts gently sloping, and in others varied with gentle inundations; the only heights of any importance being the braes of Inverquharity and the hill of Kirriemuir, which are richly cultivated to their very summit. The principal streams are, the South Esk, the Prosen, the Carity, and the Garie. The South Esk has its source among the mountains in the parish of Clova, and, after receiving many tributary streams in its progress through this parish, runs into the sea at Montrose. The pearl muscle is common in this river, and a pearl-fishery was formerly carried on with success: some years since a considerable number of pearls found here were sold to a jeweller in the town for a considerable sum, one of them being nearly a quarter of an inch in diameter. The Prosen rises in the northern extremity of the parish, and extends through the whole length of the glen to which it gives name. Augmented in its course by the streams of the Lidnathy, Glenloig, Glenlogy, and numerous others issuing from the sides of the mountains, it falls into the South Esk near Inverquharity, not far from the influx, into the same stream, of the Carity, which rises at Balintore, in the parish of Lintrathen. The Garie has its source in the lake of Kinnordy, in this parish, and joins the river Dean near Glammis Castle. Loch Kinnordy, which was formerly extensive, and abounded with perch, pike, and eels, was drained about a century since, by Sir John Ogilvy, for the marl; but the draining having been imperfectly accomplished, it is still a lake, although of inconsiderable size. The stream which issues from it, in dry weather, is scarcely sufficient to turn a mill, though, by the construction of numerous dams to collect the water, it is made to give motion to the machinery of a large number of corn and spinning mills.
   The soil is very various. In the northern division of the parish, it is sometimes of a gravelly nature: on the acclivities of the mountains, particularly those of gentler elevation, of a richer alluvial quality; and in other parts, especially towards the mountain summits, a deep moss, which in many places has been partially drained. The soil in the southern division is for a considerable extent sandy and gravelly: on the sloping grounds, where there is frequently an accumulation of alluvial deposit, it is richer, intermixed with black and brown loams of great fertility; in the lower tracts it is thin and dry; in some places mossy, and in others deep and fertile. The crops comprise oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, and turnips: the system of agriculture is in a very advanced state; the lands have been well drained, and inclosed partly with dykes of stone and partly with hedges of thorn, which are kept in good order. Irrigation has been practised with success on lands requiring that process; and all the more recent improvements in agricultural implements have been generally adopted. The natural woods in the parish, of which the eastern portion formed part of the ancient forest of Plater, are now inconsiderable; they consist chiefly of birch, alder, hazel, blackthorn, and willow. Around the castle of Inverquharity are some ancient chesnut and ash trees; and in other parts, some beeches of stately growth. The plantations are Scotch fir, with a few larch, and various kinds of forest-trees; they are well managed, and in a flourishing condition. The principal substrata are, the old red sandstone, alternated with red schistose and trap rock; slate; and limestone. A dyke of serpentine occurs on the farm of Balloch, and in Glenprosen are rocks of primitive formation, containing mica-schist, hornblende-slate, and gneiss, in which last are found beautiful specimens of rock-crystal and garnets. The slate, which is of grey colour, and contains some vegetable impressions, is of good quality for roofing; and the limestone is quarried, and burnt into lime in rudely-constructed kilns. The rateable annual value of the parish is £11,591. Kinnordy is a handsome mansion pleasantly situated; the gardens contain many rare and valuable plants, and in the house is a museum of natural curiosities and antiquities. Balnaboth, Logie, Ballandarg, and Shielhill, are the other gentlemen's seats worthy of being mentioned.
   The parish is in the presbytery of Forfar and synod of Angus and Mearns, and in the patronage of Lord Douglas; the minister's stipend is £246. 4. 8., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £11 per annum. The church, a neat plain edifice, was erected in 1787, and is adapted for a congregation of 1240 persons. There is also a church at South Kirriemuir, to which a district was till lately annexed, with a population of 2691; it contains 1021 sittings. A missionary, who has an income from the Royal Bounty, officiates alternately at Clova and Glenprosen; and there are in the town and parish an episcopal chapel, and places of worship for members of the Free Church, the Original Constitutional Synod, the United Secession, and the Relief Church. The parochial school affords a very liberal course of instruction; the master has a salary of £34, with £128 fees, a good house, and an allowance of £2. 2. 9½., in lieu of garden-ground. John Webster, Esq., in 1829, bequeathed £8000 to Charles Lyell, Esq., the minister of the parish, and others, in trust for the erection and endowment of a school; a handsome house containing five spacious schoolrooms has been erected, and teachers have been appointed by the trustees. Mr. Henry, of Kensington, near London, a native of this place, bequeathed £1400 to the ministers and elders, in trust for the education of children, to which purpose the interest of £1200 was to be appropriated, that of the remainder being directed to be paid to the parochial schoolmaster for keeping the accounts. Fifty boys are taught in the parochial school from this fund, with preference of admission to those of the name of Henry; and their fees are paid out of the funds for four years. A savings' bank, and some friendly societies established in the town, long tended to diminish the number of applications for parochial relief.
   There are within the limits of the parish several erect stones of large dimensions, none of which, however, have any inscription; and near the hill of Kirriemuir were lately two rocking-stones, within a short distance of each other, one of whinstone, and the other of Lintrathen porphyry. The parish also contains some caves, the most remarkable of which is one called Weems Hole, on the summit of the hill of Mearns. It is of artificial construction, built with stones, and covered with flags of rough stone six feet in width; it is about seventy yards in length, and has the entrance to the south. When first explored, a great number of human bones were found in it, with some querns and other relics of antiquity. There is a similar cave at Auchlishie, called the Weems Park, in which, when opened, were found a currach and several querns. In the bed of the loch of Kinnordy was found, in 1820, a canoe, of which one extremity was scarcely hidden under the surface. There are also various mutilated remains of ancient buildings, supposed to be the ruins of some of the earliest religious establishments after the introduction of Christianity into Britain. Many eminent persons have been connected with the parish. Of a branch of the Ogilvy family, resident at Inverquharity, was Alexander, second son of Sir John Ogilvy; he joined the Marquess of Montrose at the battle of Philiphaugh, in which he was taken prisoner, and for his loyalty he was executed at Glasgow in 1646. Captain Ogilvy, son of Sir David, attended James II. at the battle of the Boyne, and was afterwards killed in an engagement on the Rhine; he was one of a hundred gentlemen who volunteered to attend that monarch in his exile. David Kinloch, a descendant of the very ancient family of Kinloch, of Logie, was born in 1560, and educated as a physician, in which profession he acquired a high preeminence. He travelled much in foreign countries, and was incarcerated in the dungeon of the inquisition in Spain, from which, however, he was liberated in recompense for having performed an extraordinary cure upon the inquisitor-general, after he had been given over by his own physicians. Afterwards, he became physician to James VI., and wrote several poems in elegant Latin. A portrait of him is preserved at the family seat at Logie. In a bed of marl in this parish was found the skeleton of a stag of large dimensions; it was discovered in an upright position, the tips of the horns reaching nearly to the surface of the marl, and the feet resting upon the bottom at a depth of nearly six feet. The horns had nine branches, and when dried weighed nearly eighteen pounds. Above the marl in this part of the parish is a deep layer of peat, in which the skeleton of other stags, though of very inferior size, have been frequently found.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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