Skene

   SKENE, a parish, in the district and county of Aberdeen, 9 miles (W. by. N.) from the city of Aberdeen; containing 1846 inhabitants. This place, which is of some antiquity, was originally part of the royal forests of the kings of Scotland, and was granted to the ancestor of the ancient family of Skene by Malcolm Canmore, as an acknowledgment of his having saved the life of that monarch by killing with his dirk a wild boar by which the king was attacked while hunting in the forest. In commemoration of that event, the intrepid defender of his sovereign assumed for his family name the Gaelic term Skian, signifying "a dagger or dirk," which eventually extended to the estate, and from which the present name of the parish is obviously derived. The lands continued to descend from the ancestor of the family, by direct succession, to his heirs, till the year 1827, when the family became extinct; they are now the property of the Earl of Fife, as heir of entail. The parish is bounded on the west and on the south by the Leuchar, separating it from the parishes of Echt and Peterculter respectively; and is about six miles in length and four miles in extreme breadth, comprising 9400 acres, of which 6350 are arable, 1300 woodland and plantations, and the remainder moorland, moss, and waste. The surface is diversified with numerous small hills of moderate height, of which the summits are mostly planted with fir, adding much to the pleasing character of the scenery; and there are also interspersed fertile valleys in a high state of cultivation, contrasting with several large tracts of moor and moss. On the south-west boundary is Loch Skene, a fine sheet of water of elliptic form, about three miles in circumference, and twelve feet in its greatest depth; it abounds with pike and eels, and, receiving numerous small rivulets, forms a natural reservoir for supplying water-power to several mills and other works. The only stream resembling a river is the Leuchar burn, which issues from Loch Skene, and, after passing southward along the western boundary of the parish, takes an eastern course along its southern limit, and flows through the parish of Peterculter into the Dee, on the borders of Kincardineshire.
   The soil is generally light and gravelly, of different degrees of fertility in different parts, but on the old infield lands most productive; the chief crops raised in the parish are oats and barley, together with potatoes and turnips, and the usual grasses. The system of husbandry is greatly improved; the lands have been mostly drained; and where the common mode has not been found sufficiently effectual, furrow-draining has been adopted. Considerable tracts of waste have been reclaimed and brought under profitable cultivation. The lands have been inclosed, chiefly with fences of stone, for the erection of which materials are found in abundance; and the farm-buildings, recently much improved, are generally substantial and well arranged. The hills and moorlands afford good pasture for sheep and cattle, and much attention is paid to live-stock; but few sheep are reared, many of the sheep-walks having within the last few years been converted into plantations. The cattle, of which nearly 2500 are kept, are usually of the native breed, and considerable numbers are sent from Aberdeen to the London markets. A few horses for agricultural purposes are also bred on the several farms, and these are generally hardy and robust. The plantations, with the exception of some timber on the lands of Skene, are generally of recent formation: they consist of ash, pine, plane, willow, the various kinds of fir, and larix, for which the soil seems to be congenial; they are well managed, and regularly thinned. There is nothing peculiar in the geology; the rocks afford stone of good quality for the construction of fences, and the principal substrata are sand, gravel, and clay. The rateable annual value of the parish is £7397. Skene House, one of the seats of the Earl of Fife, is situated in the western portion of the parish, and has been recently enlarged: the more ancient portion, for many generations the residence of the family of the Skenes, is in good preservation. The walls of the mansion are of great thickness; and the interior, which has been lately fitted up anew, contains many stately apartments, a fine collection of pictures, and a library of more than 6000 volumes. The demesne is embellished with timber of venerable growth, among which are a stately chesnut-tree on the lawn, and some beautiful silver firs in the avenue; the plantations of more recent date are also extensive, and improve the scenery. Easter-Skene, a mansion in the Elizabethan style, erected by the present proprietor, and situated in a well-planted demesne commanding a view of Loch Skene and the lower range of the Grampians; and Kirkville House, a handsome residence in the cottage style, are the other principal seats.
   There is no village properly so called. A factory for the spinning of woollen yarn, of which the machinery is driven by the water of Loch Skene, and, on the failure of that power, by steam, has been established at Garlogie by Messrs. Hadden and Sons, of Aberdeen; and about 120 persons are constantly employed here, in connexion with their carpet-manufactory in that city. This factory is conducted with the most scrupulous regard to the comfort of the work-people, for whose accommodation there are neat cottages, and a schoolroom for the instruction of their children under a master and assistants maintained by the company. Several of the inhabitants of Skene follow the handicraft trades requisite for the wants of the neighbourhood; there are shops in various parts for the sale of different wares, and some inns. Facility of communication is afforded by the turnpike-roads from Aberdeen to Alford and Strathdon, and to Tarland and Kincardine, which branch from one road near its eastern boundary, and on the former of which is an office under the post-office of Aberdeen, whence letters are regularly delivered; there are also several good roads kept in repair by statute labour. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery and synod of Aberdeen. The minister's stipend is £158. 6. 8., of which one-third is paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £20 per annum: patron, the Earl of Fife. The church, which is situated nearly in the centre of the parish, was built in 1801, and has been recently repaired; it is a neat substantial structure, and contains 700 sittings. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, and Independents. The parochial school is attended by more than sixty children, and the master has a salary of £30, with a house, an allowance of £2 in lieu of garden, and the fees, averaging about £18; he also participates in the Dick bequest, and receives £20 from a bequest by Dr. Milne, of Bombay, for the gratuitous instruction of twenty-five poor children. There are several Sabbath schools, numerously attended; and a parochial library, in which is a collection of upwards of 600 volumes, is supported by subscription. The principal relics of antiquity are some remains of Druidical circles, and vestiges of a Roman road leading from the river Dee to the Don, which may still be traced in its progress through the parish, and near which were lately found two Roman urns, a sword, and some spear heads, at present in the possession of the former proprietor of Kirkville. In Skene House are preserved some manuscripts of a date prior to the invention of printing, and a charter of Robert Bruce confirming the original grant of the lands by Malcolm Canmore. The identical "skian" with which the wild boar was killed, is said to be in the possession of a distant relative of the family.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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