- RAFFORD, a parish, in the county of Elgin, 3 miles (S. E. by E.) from Forres; containing 987 inhabitants, of whom 67 are in the village. The various modes in which the name of this place has at different times been spelt, have proved a source of much perplexity in ascertaining its derivation; but most antiquaries, supported by the authority of Chalmers, are of opinion that it may be traced to the Celtic term raths, signifying "forts or strong places on hills," and applied to the locality on account of the numerous eminences in it which answer to that character. The parish was formerly the seat of the sub-chantor of Moray, and comprehended part of Kinloss, a modern parish formed from Rafford and Alves: in 1661, the old parish of Altyre was disjoined from that of Dallas, to which it had been annexed, and was united to Rafford. It is situated in the northern portion of the county, a few miles from the Moray Frith, and is bounded on the west by the river Findhorn; extending about eight miles in length, and from three to five in breadth, and comprising 10,187 acres. Of these, 3550 are cultivated; 3695 under wood and plantations; and the remainder natural pasture and waste, 280 acres of the latter being, however, considered capable of profitable cultivation. The outline is very irregular; a narrow strip of land belonging to Forres stretches for about two miles into Rafford; and a part of this parish, also, runs into the former, nearly up to the burgh. The surface is richly diversified by all the features of Highland and Lowland scenery, the former being characteristic of the upper, and the latter of the lower, part of the district; and a valley traversing the centre displays throughout its continuous undulations all the varieties of wood, water, and well-cultivated grounds.None of the hills are of great height; but from several points beautiful prospects present themselves, especially from the vicinities of Altyre and the castles of Burgie and Blervie, whence the fertile province of Moray is seen to advantage, and, in the distance, the counties of Inverness, Ross, Cromarty, Caithness, and Sutherland. Among the lochs, that of Romach is the most distinguished, forming a part of the southern boundary. It is only about a mile long, and not more than one-eighth of that extent in breadth; but its secluded situation in a wild and dreary tract, concealing it from view till the foot of the visiter nearly touches its border, and its lofty precipitous banks, marked by well laid out walks in the midst of beautiful and romantic scenery, render it a striking and attractive object. This piece of water, abounding with fine trout, sends forth the rivulet called Back Burn, which, increasing its stream as it advances, winds along the fertile valley of Pluscarden, celebrated for its priory. On the estate of Altyre is the loch of Blairs, or "loch of the moss," also well stocked with trout; and a small loch named Tulloch is to be seen on the estate of Blervie, but has been lately much reduced by draining. The Findhorn, running between lofty and steep rocky banks, richly ornamented with plants, shrubs, and trees, is rapid and impetuous, and causes very frequently great damage to the crops when swollen with rain. This is also the case with the burns of Altyre and Rafford, which, in rough weather, bring down large deposits of gravel and the debris of rocks to the lands in their vicinity, to the great annoyance and loss of the farmer. The latter of these streams, in particular, on the 6th of August, 1838, was converted into a destructive and dangerous torrent by a water-spout, carrying away in its impetuous course both banks and bridges, and overflowing and destroying to a considerable extent many valuable crops, among which was a beautiful field of wheat on the minister's glebe.The soil comprises the numerous varieties of light sand, deep rich clay, dark loam resting on rock, moss, and shallow gravelly mould; and it is considered as a peculiarity, that the deepest soils here are on the most elevated grounds, and the most fertile tracts those with a northern exposure. All kinds of grain and green crops are produced, and of good quality; the annual average value of them together being about £12,685, including £550 for cuttings of wood. The six-shift rotation system of husbandry, with the other approved modern usages, is followed; and the draining of the lands, and the well-known salubrity of the climate of Moray, have rendered the efforts of the farmer in elevating the agricultural character of the locality, highly successful. The Earls of Fife and Moray are among the chief proprietors. The farms are of considerable extent, many small ones having been consolidated within the last few years; the arable portions average in rent £1.5. per acre, and the leases are generally for nineteen years. The old small-horned, white-faced breed of sheep has been to a great extent superseded by the Cheviot; the cattle are the Highland, the polled Aberdeenshire, and the short-horned: much attention has been paid to stock, and many prizes have been awarded by agricultural societies to this parish. The most remarkable improvements carried on here consist in draining, which has recently embraced 200 or 300 acres, and in the increase of threshing-mills; the farm-houses, also, are in general good, but the fences still very deficient. The substrata of the parish are composed chiefly of gneiss, and grey and red sandstone: of the last there is a quarry in operation, supplying a material of inferior quality; but the grey slate of Rafford, formerly in much demand, has not lately been wrought, in consequence of the preference given to the Easdale blue slate. The rateable annual value of Rafford is £3979.The plantations are principally larch and Scotch fir; but there are some noble oaks and beeches of great age and bulk, and in the garden of Burgie is an unusually fine sycamore. The house of Blervie, for the erection of which a large part of an ancient castle was taken down, stands on the estate once belonging to a branch of the Dunbar family: the property was sold about the commencement of the last century to Alexander Macintosh, who was "Laird of Blairie" in 1713 and 1724, and from whom it was purchased by William, Earl of Fife. The tower of the old castle, containing five stories, and the staircase, are still remaining. The mansion of Burgie, built in 1802, stands near the site of the castle of Burgie, which was enlarged by the addition of a spacious edifice in 1702, but eventually taken down altogether, with the exception of an elegant square tower, to furnish materials for the present edifice. This estate came to the Dunbars by Katherine Reid, niece of the last abbot of Kinloss, who was married to Alexander Dunbar, first lord of Burgie of that name. Another great property in the parish, called Altyre, belonged in the 14th century to the family of Cumyn, or Cumming, a descendant of which, in 1657, married Lucy Gordon, daughter of Sir Ludovick, of Gordonstown, through whom the estate of Gordonstown came to Alexander Penrose Cumming, of Altyre, on the death of Sir William Gordon, of Gordonstown, Bart., in 1795. Mr. Cumming then assumed the arms of the Gordons, and was created a baronet of Great Britain in 1804; and the family is now represented by Sir William G. G. Gumming, his son, whose beautiful grounds surrounding the mansion stretch to the banks of the Findhorn. There is a hill on this estate still called "gallow hill," where the sentences of the Baron-court of Altyre were formerly executed. The turnpike-road between Elgin and Forres runs through the northern part of the parish; the mail and several public coaches daily travel on it, and to the latter place the inhabitants send their produce for sale. Fairs are held for cattle in April and November.The parish is in the presbytery of Forres and synod of Moray, and in the patronage of James Campbell Brodie, Esq., of Lethen: the minister's stipend is £223, with a manse, and a glebe of six acres, valued at £6 per annum. The church, built in 1826, is a handsome and commodious edifice, situated nearly in the centre of the parish, and contains sittings for 600 persons. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school affords instruction in the usual branches: the master has a salary of £34. 4., besides a house and an allowance for a garden, and receives £20 fees; he also participates in the benefit of the Dick bequest. The principal antiquity is the celebrated obelisk called Sueno's Stone, standing about half a mile eastward from the town of Forres, on the estate of the Earl of Moray, and supposed to have been erected by the Scots in commemoration of the important victory gained over the Danes at the battle of Murtlach, by which the generals Olavus and Enecus, sent over by King Sueno, were obliged with their followers to take their final departure from the country. It is of hard sandstone, twenty-three feet high above the ground, and thought to run twelve feet deep; four feet broad at the base; and fifteen inches thick: the southern side contains five divisions, each distinguished by numerous figures and representations of the most curious and interesting kind, cut in relief. Lady Anne Campbell, a late countess of Moray, caused some stone steps to be placed at the foot, for a support to the monument. A relic somewhat similar, with indications of a Runic origin, stands at Altyre; and on the estate of Burgie have recently been discovered, among other remains, several ancient coffins, each formed of five slabs of undressed freestone. Dr. Alexander Adam, for many years rector of the High School at Edinburgh, and well known as the author of Roman Antiquities, Classical Biography, &c., was a native of the parish.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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