- PORTSOY, a sea-port town, a burgh of barony, and lately a quoad sacra parish, in the parish of Fordyce, county of Banff, 8 miles (W. by N.) from Banff, and 18 (E. by N.) from Fochabars; containing 1720 inhabitants, of whom 1523 are in the burgh. This place is supposed to have derived its name from Loch Soy, originally an extensive sheet of water in its immediate vicinity, but which since the erection of the town has been greatly reduced by draining, and is now converted into a mill-dam. Portsoy is a place of some antiquity, and appears by charter of Mary, Queen of Scots, granted in 1550 to Walter Ogilvy, of Boyne, its ancient proprietor, to have been erected into a burgh of barony: the Earl of Seafield is now the superior. The town is situated on a point of land projecting into the Moray Frith, and on the western bank of the streamlet Durn, which here falls into the sea; it is small, and irregularly built, but nevertheless of very pleasing appearance. The coast, though not precipitous, is bold and rocky; most of the houses command a fine view of the sea, and the environs comprise much pleasing scenery, which derives additional interest from the mansionhouse of Durn, within half a mile of the town. Two public libraries, containing a good collection of volumes on history and general literature, are supported by subscription; and there is also a small theological library, in connexion with the Sabbath school. The manufacture of fine linen and thread, formerly carried on here for the supply of the English market, has been for some years discontinued; and the only manufacture now is that of ropes for the use of the fishermen, together with the making of various trinkets from the Portsoy marble, for which the parish is celebrated. The staple trade of the place is the exportation of grain and herrings, and the importation of coal, bones for manure, and a few other commodities. The number of vessels at present registered as belonging to the port is eight, of the aggregate burthen of 556 tons, and all employed in the coasting-trade; and about an equal number of foreign vessels, from various parts of the Baltic, annually visit the port, landing cargoes of bones, and taking away herrings in return.The harbour affords safe accommodation to vessels of 100 tons, and in 1828 was greatly improved by the construction of a new pier, at great expense, by the Earl of Seafield, rendering it one of the most secure and commodious harbours on the coast. This pier was, however, considerably injured by a violent storm on the 7th of January, 1839; and by a second storm on the 30th of that month, was totally demolished. It has not since been rebuilt; the old pier is consequently still used for loading and unloading vessels, and, though small, is not inconvenient. About ten boats are employed in the cod and herring fisheries off the coast, each boat having a crew of four men; and when the fishermen go to more distant stations, larger boats are used, having crews of from five to seven men each. In successful seasons, each man upon an average clears £30. There is a small distillery in the town; and a mill for crushing bones, a saw-mill, and a threshing-mill, have recently been built, all of which are driven by one and the same water-wheel. Branches of the Aberdeen and North of Scotland Banks, and of the Banff Savings' Bank, have been established; and there are several inns, and various shops for the supply of the neighbourhood. The market, which is amply furnished with provisions of every kind, and with agricultural produce, is held weekly on Saturday, and numerously attended. The post-office has a tolerable delivery; and facility of communication is maintained by excellent roads, of which the turnpikeroads to Banff, Cullen, Elgin, Keith, and Huntly, pass through the parish. The burgh, under its original charter, ratified by James VI., is governed by a baron-bailie chosen by the Earl of Seafield; but the bailie, though vested with the ordinary powers, neither holds any courts nor exercises any jurisdiction, rather adjusting differences as an arbiter than using authority as a magistrate; and the burgh has neither property nor revenue. A small weekly custom is raised, sufficient merely to pay the salary of the person appointed to superintend the market. The late quoad sacra parish of Portsoy, including the town and surrounding district, and comprising an area of nearly five square miles, was separated from Fordyce by act of the General Assembly in 1836. The church, originally built as a chapel of ease, at a cost of nearly £900, is a neat substantial structure containing about 700 sittings, of which thirtyfive are free: the minister has a stipend of £80, of which £40 are paid by the Earl of Seafield, who is patron, and the remainder is derived from the seatrents. There are also in the town an episcopal chapel, a Free church, and a Roman Catholic chapel. A school is chiefly supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, who pay the master a salary of £15, to which £5 are added by the Earl of Seafield; and he has also a house, and grass for a cow, in addition to the school-fees, averaging about £20 annually.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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