- RATHVEN, a parish, in the county of Banff, 3½ miles (W. by S.) from Cullen; comprising the villages of Findochty, Porteasie, Portgordon, and Portnockie, the late quoad sacra parish of Buckie, and part of that of Enzie; and containing 6728 inhabitants. The Gaelic terms Rath, Bheann, the former signifying "a circle of stones," and the latter "a hill," appear to have given name to this place, one of its most prominent features being the eminence called Binhill, which overhangs the south-eastern part of the locality, and is covered with cairns. The parish is situated in that district of the county named Enzie, and from its north-western exposure suffers severely from the violence of storms. It stretches along the coast of the Moray Frith, from northeast to south-west, for the distance of ten miles, and is nearly five miles in breadth; comprising 33,750 acres, of which about 10,540 are cultivated, and 6027 under natural wood and in plantations. Of the remainder, only 700 acres are considered capable of improvement. The shore is sandy, and interspersed with small stones rounded by the action of the water; the surface immediately stretching from the beach is level, and the land of good quality. The parish, however, assumes the character of a mountainous district towards the interior, where the boundary is formed by an extensive range of hills covered with heath and moss, and commencing at Binhill, a lofty elevation rising 945 feet above the level of the sea, and planted to its summit. A circuitous carriage-road has been made to the top by the Earl of Seafield, affording every facility for the command of the beautiful prospects that may be obtained from this mountain, which is well known by mariners as a landmark, being visible at the distance of fifteen leagues from the shore.The hills send forth numerous streamlets and burns, crossing the district, and running into the sea; but they afford very little nutritious pasture, the soil being chiefly hard gravel or moss upon an impervious clayey subsoil. A light rich loam, however, resting on clay, is found on the lower grounds; and in some parts is a thin fertile soil of the same kind, incumbent on a reddish clay formed from the decomposition of the old red sandstone. Nearly all the different soils are largely intermixed with small round stones. Grain of all kinds is raised, to the average annual value of £27,300; and potatoes and turnips also in considerable quantities; making, with the remainder of the agricultural produce, and £600 for the thinnings of wood, an aggregate of the amount of £43,636. The six-shift course of husbandry is in general followed; and the lands are mostly well-farmed, and inclosed in many instances with dry stone dykes, the chief deficiency observable being in the farm steadings and offices. The manures comprise sea-weed, farm-yard dung, and the refuse of fish: the last, when mixed with moss, is found a valuable compost for green crops. The farms vary in size and quality from a rental of £30 to one of £500, and are held under several proprietors, among whom are the Earl of Seafield and the Duke of Richmond: land lets at from 12s. to £3 per acre. The sheep are of a mixed kind, and few in number; but much attention is given to the breeding and rearing of cattle, of which the Aberdeenshire breed is prevalent; and very fine stock are sold in considerable numbers annually for the southern markets. The horses, also, are of superior symmetry and strength, and have been much improved in the breed by the encouragement afforded by the agricultural society instituted some years since at Cullen, who give a handsome premium at the annual show for the best specimens. The rocks along the coast consist principally of gneiss, mica-slate, clayslate, schist, greywacke, and various kinds of sandstone and limestone; the two last are quarried, as well as the clay-slate. Other minerals, but of inferior importance, are to be found; and the proceeds of the quarries in the parish amount to £300 per annum. The chief mansions are those of Letterfourie, Tannachy, Burnside, Buckie Lodge, and Cairnfield, the plantations around some of which, comprising all the ordinary trees, are in a flourishing condition, as well as those belonging to the pleasure-grounds of Cullen House, which are situated chiefly in this parish, and contain fine trees of oak, ash, elm, beech, larch, and Scotch fir. The rateable annual value of Rathven is £9539.Besides the village of Rathven, there are five fishing-villages, named respectively Buckie, Porteasie, Findochty, Portnockie, and Portgordon, each containing a considerable population engaged in the herring-fishery, and in the fisheries off the coast, comprising haddock, cod, halibut, sole, mackerel, plaice, flounders, and many others. There are some salmon in the burns, and many crabs and lobsters about the shores; and the whole fish obtained are valued at £45,000 annually, of which the herring branch is estimated at £18,375. The number of boats belonging to the parish is 245, each carrying four men, and sometimes a boy also; and there are two harbours, one at Buckie and the other at Portgordon. The former is chiefly used as a landing-place for the fishermen, and a retreat for their boats; the latter, where ships of considerable burthen frequently enter, is the seat of an extensive traffic in the exportation of grain, and the importation of salt and English coal. The linen manufacture was pursued on a large scale in the parish till about the year 1763, employing sixty hand-weavers, and a great number of spinners, the aggregate earnings of the latter amounting annually to nearly £2000; but the only operations of this kind now carried on are limited to four weavers, who make linen, plaiding, &c., for family use. A small rope-work is in operation at Buckie. There is a distillery at Gollachie, the business of which has, however, been for some time suspended; and the parish contains a mill for carding wool, four corn-mills, and one for grinding flour and making potbarley. At Buckie is a post-office with a daily delivery. The post-road from Elgin to Banff passes through the parish for ten miles; and on its north and south sides, in the direction of Cullen, wide tracts of moorland have been reclaimed, and ornamented with neat and commodious houses, with small inclosures, by the encouragement of the Earl of Seafield, who gives a bounty of £5 for each acre improved, and allows the occupier to hold it rent-free for five years. The fuel used in the district consists chiefly of peat and turf, but coal is also burnt to some extent. A fair is held in July for cattle, sheep, and cheese.The parish is in the presbytery of Fordyce and synod of Aberdeen, and in the patronage of Sir Andrew Leith Hay, of Rannes: the minister's stipend is £207, with a manse, and a glebe of seven acres, valued at £12 per annum. The church, conveniently situated in a central position, contains 1000 sittings, all free. There is a chapel at Enzie, to which a district in the western extremity of the parish was till lately annexed as a quoad sacra parish; it contains 404 sittings, and was erected in 1785, with money raised by collections in all the churches of Scotland, at the recommendation of the General Assembly. It is endowed with lands left by a Mr. Anderson, under the management of the Committee of the Royal Bounty, and the presbytery of Fordyce; the clergyman receives £62. 8. annually from the procurator of the church, and the amount of the seat-rents, and has also a piece of land extending over eight acres, worth about £8 per annum. A second chapel was built in the parish, at the village of Buckie, in the year 1835, at a cost of £800, raised chiefly by subscription: to this was attached, as a district, the whole village of Buckie, and a small part of the parish towards the south, comprehending together upwards of 2000 persons. The eastern extremity of Rathven, containing the village of Portnockie, has been long annexed quoad sacra to Cullen: a chapel was lately built at the village, by subscription, at the cost of £400: the Hon. Colonel Grant, now sixth earl of Seafield, contributing £100. There are also two episcopal chapels; the one at Buckie, with 200 sittings; and the other at Arradoul, built about the year 1788, containing 211 sittings. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship; and the Roman Catholic population, amounting to about 1500 persons, possess a chapel at Buckie, and another at Presholm, the latter built in 1788: the bishop resides here, with three priests.The parochial school affords instruction in Latin and Greek, in addition to the usual branches; the master has a salary of £32. 1., with £25, being a portion of the Dick bequest, a house, and about £10 fees. A school is supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge at Corfurrach, near the Enzie chapel, the master receiving £15 per annum from the society, and having a free dwelling-house and schoolroom at the expense of the Duke of Richmond. In Portgordon, a master has a salary of £15 from the duke, and a free house and schoolroom; and in the village of Portnockie the Earl of Seafield has built a good school-house, and allows the master £10 per annum, with permission to charge the same fees as those at the parish school. A public library, supported by a quarterly contribution, was instituted some years since in the village of Rathven, where, also, is an ancient hospital once adapted for seven leprous persons, for whom it was founded by John Bisset in 1226. The Bede-house was lately repaired, and two of the six beadsmen still on the establishment live in it. Each beadsman holds, on the lands of Rannes, half an acre of good croft land, and receives one boll of oatmeal annually; also, from the lands of Findochty, 8s. 1¼d; and from John Gordon, Esq., of Cluny, as proprietor of the lands of Freuchnie, which formerly were part of the estate of Rannes, 1s. 4¾d; making together 9s. 6d. in money. The half acre brings, if let, £1.1. per annum.Remains of Druidical temples, and cairns, are numerous within the parish: the chief of the latter is a large heap of stones south of the public road, called the King's cairn, and traditionally reported to be the grave of Indulphus, the 77th king of Scotland, who, after having obtained a signal victory over the Danes, was killed near this spot. There are also several very extensive caves on the coast, one of which is called Farskane's, on account of the proprietor having, in 1715, taken refuge in it with two friends, to escape from the troubles consequent on the Earl of Mar's rebellion: after a stay of five or six weeks, they returned to their houses. In 1805 some coins were found in a small box, of the reigns of Queen Mary, James VI. and Charles I. The parish contains several medicinal springs, two of them chalybeates, and much frequented. The celebrated Dr. Alexander Geddes was born at Pathheads, in the parish, in 1737; he died in London in 1802.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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