- MENMUIR, a parish, in the county of Forfar, 4½ miles (N. W. by W.) from Brechin; containing, with the hamlet of Tigerton, 732 inhabitants, of whom 641 are in the rural districts. This place, which is of remote antiquity, derives its name signifying in the Celtic language "the great moss," from the marshy nature of the lands, which appear to have been originally one extensive tract of bog. A church was founded here in the early part of the 7th century, by St. Aidan, to whom Oswald, King of Northumbria, whose subjects he had been powerfully instrumental in converting to Christianity, granted the Holy island of Lindisfarn, of which he became bishop, and where he laid the foundation of a see which subsequently, under his successors, was removed to Durham. The ancient Caledonians, previously to their battle with Agricola at the foot of the Grampians, are supposed to have been encamped at this place; and there are still extensive remains of the rudely-formed but strong fortress which on this occasion they occupied, on a hill in the parish. There are two nearly contiguous hills called Caterthun, on the south side of the river Westwater, forming the eastern extremity of a range of heights parallel with, and nearly at the foot of, the Grampians; one is termed the White, and the other the Brown, Caterthun. The White Caterthun is crowned with the fortress thought to have been occupied by the Caledonians, consisting of an immense pile of loose stones, inclosing an elliptical and level area of 150 yards in length, and seventy yards in transverse diameter. Within the area was once a spring of pure water; and on the eastern side are the remains of a quadrilateral building, surrounded with a stone dyke and a fosse that may be distinctly traced. Around the external base of this entrenchment is a deep ditch, below which, at the distance of 100 yards, are traces of another, encircling the hill. On the summit of the Brown Caterthun is a fortification of round form, consisting of concentric ramparts of earth, from the colour of which the hill takes its name; and on the declivity of the hill, which is inferior in elevation to the other, is a rampart extending to the White Caterthun, with which it appears to have been connected as a place of retreat. In the reign of James II., the proprietor of the lands of Balnamoon, in this parish, joined the Earl of Crawfurd at the battle of Brechin, to revenge the death of Douglas; but, a misunderstanding arising between him and the earl, he drew off a large portion of the forces, and, joining the loyalists under the Earl of Huntly, decided the contest in favour of the monarch.The parish lies in the north-eastern portion of the county, and is about five miles in length and nearly three in average breadth, forming in the southern part of it a section of the fertile vale of Strathmore. The surface towards the south and east is generally level, but in the north hilly and almost mountainous; to the north-east are the Caterthuns, from which the range of heights already mentioned, and called the Menmuir hills, extends for nearly three miles towards the west. The principal rivers are, the Cruick, which flows in gentle windings through the whole of the southern district into the Westwater in the parish of Strickathrow; the Westwater, part of the northern boundary of the parish; and the Pelphrie burn, which having its source in the parish of Fearn, flows eastward along the remainder of the northern boundary of Menmuir, and falls into the Westwater. The soil along the banks of the Cruick is rich and fertile, and in the lower grounds generally productive; the prevailing quality is a sandy clay, alternated with gravel and loam. On the higher grounds and hills is much heathy moor. The crops include oats, barley, peas, potatoes, and turnips, of which the lands produce sufficient for the supply of the district; and on several of the farms small quantities of flax are raised, for which the soil appears to be well adapted. The system of husbandry is improved, and much of the waste land has been drained and brought into profitable cultivation; great attention is paid to the management of the dairy-farms, and large quantities of butter and cheese are sent to Brechin and other markets. The rateable annual value of the parish, according to returns made under the Income tax, is £5615.The only seat is Balnamoon House, a handsome mansion, erected by James Carnegy Arbuthnott, Esq., the principal landed proprietor; and the hamlet or village of Tigerton, of recent origin, is the only village. The spinning of flax, for the dressing of which a mill was some years since built on the river Cruick, with the assistance of the Board of Trustees, has been discontinued, but the weaving of linen is carried on to a considerable extent; the articles chiefly manufactured are, sailcloth and duck, coarse plaidings, and some linen of finer quality for domestic use. There are several cornmills on the Cruick, in one of which large quantities of pot-barley are prepared for the London market. Facility of communication is maintained by the great road to Brechin and other roads, and by bridges over the river Cruick and the Westwater. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Brechin and synod of Angus and Mearns. The minister's stipend is £180, of which a small part is paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £35 per annum: patron, Alexander Erskine, Esq., of Balhall. The old church built in 1767 was taken down, and a handsome and substantial structure erected in 1842, containing ample accommodation for the parishioners. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school affords instruction to about 100 children; the master has a salary of £34. 4. 4., with a house and garden, and the fees average £16 per annum. On the removal of the wall of the old churchyard, two sculptured stones were found, on one of which were two equestrian figures with spears and round shields, having behind them a man on foot bearing a crook; and in another part of the same stone were figures of a deer and Roman eagle. Upon the other stone was an equestrian figure only. About a mile to the north of the church is a cluster of barrows, supposed to have been raised over the remains of those who were slain in a battle between the Picts and the Danes.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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