Leochel and Cushnie

   LEOCHEL and CUSHNIE, a parish, in the district of Alford, county of Aberdeen, 3½ miles (S. S. W.) from Alford; containing 1084 inhabitants. These two ancient parishes, the etymology of the names of which is altogether uncertain, were united in 1618, by a decreet of the lords of Plat; but this union was dissolved about three years subsequently, by the influence of Bishop Patrick Forbes, a central church for the two districts not having been built according to the conditions of the annexation. In 1793, however, a process of annexation was commenced on the part of the heritors; and a decreet was passed by the Court of Teinds on the 28th January, 1795, for the union, in consequence of which, two years afterwards, a central church was built. The earls of Mar appear to have been the first possessors of land in Leochel of whom any account remains, Gilchrist, Earl of Mar, having, between the years 1165 and 1170, given to the church of St. Mary, Monymusk, and the Culdees there, the church of Leochel, with all its tithes and offerings, and the portion of land in which the church was situated. This gift was confirmed and enlarged by some of his successors, and was also ratified by a charter of Alexander II., about the year 1234. The most ancient and the principal estates in the district of Leochel are those of Corse, Craigievar, Easter Fowlis or Fowlis-Mowat, Wester Fowlis, and Lynturk; those in Cushnie are, Cushnie, and Hallhead. The lands of Corse are locally in the adjoining parish of Coull, but are annexed quoad sacra to this parish, a union supposed to have taken place about 1621, when Leochel and Cushnie were disunited by the exertions of Bishop Forbes.
   The parish is situated in the upper part of the district of Alford, and is rendered extremely irregular in its outline by a projection on the north-west, and another on the east, independently of which it measures about five miles from east to west, and three and a half from north to south. Its whole extent is 11,208 acres, of which 5455 are arable, 963 pasture, 3790 moor, and 1000 wood. The climate is somewhat cold, causing the harvests to be in general rather later than those in the lower part of the district; and the scenery partakes of the variety and boldness produced by a combination of hills, valleys, and mountains in almost uninterrupted succession. The western boundary is marked by the Soccoch, or hill of Cushnie, a mountain range rising 2000 feet above the level of the sea, and from the base of which four lofty ridges stretch eastward throughout the whole length of the parish, each accompanied by its valley and refreshing stream. The summits of these eminences are barren, the cultivated ground lying on the southern and northern slopes, and in the beds of the valleys, the lowest parts of which are only 500 feet above the level of the sea. The prospects are extensive and beautifully picturesque, especially from the hill of Cushnie, comprehending in the panoramic range the fertile vale of Cromar on the south, backed by the lofty Grampians; Morven and Benavon on the west; the windings of the Don along the valley of Towie, Belrinnes, the Buck of Cabrach, and the Tap of Noth, to the north-west and north; and towards the north-east and east, the vale of Alford, well cultivated and wooded, with the district of Garioch, and the level tracts reaching to the Buchan coast. The locality is well watered with rivulets usually flowing from west to east, and falling into the principal stream, the burn of Leochel, which, after a rather circuitous route of several miles through the parish, falls into the Don at Alford. All these waters abound with trout, especially the Leochel; and frequently, by their sudden and violent floodings, they occasion much damage to the bridges and the adjacent lands.
   The soil is in some parts a rich loam, and occasionally exhibits in the valleys, and near the streams, alluvial deposits; but it is in general much mixed with clay, and is incumbent on a retentive clayey subsoil. Grass and turnips succeed best, though a considerable portion of grain is raised, averaging annually in value £8000; and about 500 head of black-cattle are sold yearly. These are of the Aberdeenshire horned or polled breed, and are the chief live-stock, very few sheep being kept. Great improvements have been for some time going forward in most branches of husbandry, which is here practised sometimes by the six-shift, but most frequently according to the seven-shift, course; the farm-buildings are in good condition, and threshing-mills have been considerably multiplied, forty-five being now in operation, besides four meal-mills. The rocks in the parish consist principally of granite, of a red colour in some parts, and in others inclining to grey: limestone has been also found, though in too small quantities to repay the expense of quarrying. The rateable annual value of Leochel and Cushnie is £3298. The plantations are mostly of Scotch fir and larch, but the latter, after about fifteen years' growth, generally falls to decay: the whole of the wood has been planted since the year 1820, with the exception of some fine trees in the vicinity of the several mansions. Craigievar Castle, the seat of Sir John Forbes, Bart., is in perfect repair, having been new-roofed in 1826, and is considered a fine specimen of the old baronial mansion of the period of James VI. The hall, a noble apartment, with its lofty roof, its spacious fireplace, and venerable aspect of feudal grandeur, is particularly admired; and the surrounding grounds, ornamented with ancient ash and beech, render the scenery highly interesting. The house of Cushnie and that of Hallhead are each about 150 years old, and are both dilapidated and untenanted.
   The chief manufacture in the parish is that carried on at a carding-mill, where plaids and blankets are made to a small extent. Many aged women are engaged in knitting stockings, from worsted, for a house at Aberdeen, and their joint labours produce an annual return of between £70 and £100. The fuel chiefly in use was formerly peat and turf; but these are now with great difficulty obtained, the mosses in the parish being nearly exhausted, and coal is frequently procured from Aberdeen. The Alford and Aberdeen turnpike-road passes within five miles of the centre of the parish, on the north; and that from Tarland to Aberdeen runs along the southern border of the lands of Corse. A good commutation road joins the Alford line at Whiteley, in the parish of Tough; and the government road from Donside to Deeside intersects the lower part of the parish. The nearest post-offices are those of Alford on the north-east, and Tarland on the south-west, each six miles distant from the middle of the parish. The chief communication for the sale of produce is with the market at Aberdeen. Fairs for cattle, horses, sheep, and wool are held on a moor near Scuttrie, on the estate of Craigievar, in April, May, July, August, and September. Leochel and Cushnie are ecclesiastically in the presbytery of Alford and synod of Aberdeen; and Sir John Forbes, Bart., and the Rev. Henry Thomas Lumsden, proprietor of Cushnie, are alternate patrons of the united parish, as respectively patrons of the two old churches. The minister's stipend is £197, with an allowance in addition from a proprietor, a manse, and a glebe valued at £18 per annum. The church, containing 500 sittings, is, though built as late as 1797, in a dilapidated state. The old churches are unroofed and ruinous; but the grounds attached are still used as burial-places. A small place of worship belonging to the United Associate Synod is situated near the eastern boundary. There are two parochial schools, affording instruction in the ordinary branches: the masters have each the minimum salary, with a house and garden, from £12 to £15 fees, and an allowance of £30 from the Dick bequest. A school is supported by the General Assembly, and two others by endowment, the one school by a bequest of £300 from the late Peter and Charles Ritchie, of Wester Leochel, and other persons, and the other school by the late Peter Mc Combie, Esq., of Lynturk. There is a small library belonging to each of the two districts; and considerable benefactions have been made for the use of the poor. About the year 1826, a gold coin of the Roman Emperor Constantius was dug up in Cushnie; and in 1839, a silver one of James VI., struck after the union of the crowns, was found near the manse. The chief antiquities are, several subterraneous places called Picts' houses, some intrenchments on the hill of Corse, and the ruins of the castles of Lynturk and Corse. Patrick Forbes, Bishop of Aberdeen, a prelate distinguished for his learning and piety; and his son, Dr. John Forbes, professor of divinity in King's College, Aberdeen, were both proprietors of Corse; and the latter was buried in the family aisle at Leochel. Dr. Matthew Lumsden, the celebrated Orientalist, and professor of Persian and Arabic in the college of Fort-William, Bengal, belonged to the ancient family of Lumsden, of Cushnie. Sir John Forbes is styled a Baronet from the property of Craigievar.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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