Speymouth

   SPEYMOUTH, a parish, in the county of Elgin, ¼ mile (N. by W.) from Fochabers; containing, with the villages of Garmouth, Kingston-Port, and Mosstodlach, 1774 inhabitants, of whom 681 are in the rural districts. This place, consisting of the ancient parishes of Dipple and Essil, united by act of the General Assembly in 1731, derives its name from its situation near the mouth of the river Spey, which here falls into the Moray Frith. It appears to have been at a very early period the scene of various conflicts between the Scottish kings and their rebellious subjects. In 1078 the confederate insurgents of Caithness, Moray, and Ross, after an ineffectual attempt to intercept the passage of Malcolm III. with his army over the Spey, to attack their main body on the opposite shore, laid down their arms, and submitted to his authority. In 1110, another and a more formidable party of rebels assembled at this place, to oppose the progress of Alexander I. and his army, when a sanguinary battle occurred, which terminated in the total defeat of the insurgent forces, of whom great numbers were left dead on the field. During the reign of Malcolm IV., also, a severe battle was fought on the moors between Speymouth and Urquhart, the adjoining parish, in which the rebels of Moray, who had mustered here in great force, were routed with much slaughter; all the chief families of the province who had favoured the rising were dispersed into distant parts of the kingdom, and their lands transferred to less turbulent proprietors. In 1650 Charles II. landed at this place from Holland, where he had taken refuge during the usurpation of Cromwell; he was warmly received by the Laird of Innes and other loyal persons, and was entertained by the steward of Lord Dunfermline at his house at Garmouth, in which, indeed, he is said to have signed the Covenant. The remains of this house have been taken down, but the site is still pointed out. The last transaction of historical importance connected with the parish occurred in 1746, when the forces of the Young Pretender, on their retreat from the south, assembled here in great numbers, being resolved to make a desperate stand against the royal army under the Duke of Cumberland. On this occasion, the chieftains took up their head-quarters in the manse, while the troops were encamped along the banks of the Spey; but from want of concert among the leaders, and from the insubordination of the men, the rebels abandoned their design, and fled with the greatest precipitation on the approach of the royal army. The Duke with his forces crossed the Spey on the 12th of April, and encamped on the plain between the river and the church; after sleeping in the manse for that night, he advanced towards Inverness, and on the 16th gained the battle of Culloden, which put an end to the rebellion.
   The parish is bounded on the north by the Moray Frith and on the east by the Spey, and is nearly seven miles in length from north to south, and about two miles in mean breadth; comprising almost 7000 acres, of which about 2500 are arable, 500 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, moorland, moss, and waste. The surface along the shore of the Frith is tolerably flat, but, about half a mile to the south, rises abruptly into a small hill of moderate elevation, beyond which is a large tract of table-land, not many yards above the level of the river: further towards the south, the ground rises by a gradual ascent till it terminates in a high hill on the southern boundary of the parish. The Spey is the only river of any importance; it abounds with salmon, grilse, and trout of excellent quality. The salmon-fishery, which is rented by a company under the Duke of Richmond, employs twelve boats, having each a crew of seven men and a boy; and very considerable numbers of fish are taken, of which some are packed in ice, and sent to the London market. The soil, though generally light, is not unfertile; in some parts there is a black loam of greater depth, resting on a gravelly subsoil, and the soil of the arable lands near the river is luxuriantly productive. The crops are, oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, and turnips, with the usual grasses. The farms are mostly of moderate size, varying from thirty to 200 acres in extent; the system of husbandry is improved, and a due rotation of crops is carefully observed. Lime is generally used for manure, but bone-dust has been introduced upon the turnip lands, and with complete success. The cattle are of a cross between the Aberdeenshire and the Highland black-breed: with the exception of what are fattened for the butcher, they are sold when two or three years old to the graziers in Aberdeenshire and other counties to the south. The sheep, of which a few flocks are kept, are a cross between the Cheviot and the small brown-faced Morayshire breed; and the horses, of which as many are reared as are requisite for the purposes of agriculture, are strong and hardy, though small in stature. The rateable annual value of Speymouth is £8589.
   The plantations, which have been this century much extended, especially in the northern portion of the parish, are principally fir, interspersed with various kinds of forest-trees; they are under careful management. The substrata are mostly sandstone of a reddish colour, which increases in the durability of its texture, in proportion to its depth: in the upper part of the parish, moorstone is quarried for building. The villages of Garmouth and Kingston-Port, in which a very extensive trade in the exportation of corn and fish and importation of coal, and in the building and repairing of ships, and boats for the fishery, is carried on, are both described under their respective heads. Letters are delivered daily from the post-office at Fochabers; and facility of communication is maintained by the turnpike-road from Aberdeen to Inverness, which passes through the parish, and by a bridge over the Spey, which, having been greatly damaged by the flood in 1829, was repaired in 1832. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Elgin and synod of Moray. The minister's stipend, including a vicarial tithe on salmon, is about £150, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £25 per annum; patrons, alternately, the Earl of Moray and Sir W. G. G. Cumming. The church, erected in 1732, and repaired and enlarged in 1799, is a neat substantial structure affording ample accommodation for the parishioners. The parochial school, which is situated at Garmouth, is attended by about fifty children: the master has a salary of £29. 18. 9., with a house and garden, and the fees average £20 annually; he also receives the interest of a bequest of 2000 merks Scotch by Mr. Gordon, of Edinburgh. A school is supported by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, who allow the master a salary of £60; and a Sabbath school, to which is attached a library, is maintained by subscription. A subscription library, now containing nearly 300 volumes of standard works, was established in 1823; and a mechanics' library, of nearly equal extent, in 1825. This parish was anciently the burial-place of the family of Braco, ancestors of the Earl of Fife. Jane, daughter of James Innes, Esq., of Redhall, a place not far from the church, was wife of Governor Pitt, and great-grandmother of the late illustrious William Pitt.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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