Towie

   TOWIE, a parish, in the district of Alford, county of Aberdeen, 4½ miles (S. W.) from Kildrummy; containing 748 inhabitants. This place, of which the former name was Kilbartha, from a cell or church dedicated to St. Bertha, and subsequently Kinbattoch, from its situation at the head of a grove, is supposed to have derived its present appellation, signifying in the Gaelic language "the North Country," from its relative position in respect of other localities in the county. After the Reformation it appears to have formed part of the possessions of the family of the Forbes's, of whose manorial residence, Towie Castle, there are still some portions remaining, and whose descendants, the Honourable Lord Forbes, and Sir Charles Forbes, Bart., still retain land in the parish. The first occurrence worthy of notice was in the reign of Edward I. of England, when a party of English, under the command of Lord Atholl, marching through Towie to besiege the castle of Kildrummy, at that time almost the only fortress in the hands of Robert Bruce, was repulsed by the people of the district with great slaughter. Few other historical events of importance are recorded in connexion with the place, till the 16th century, when a party of unreformed Gordons set fire to the mansion of the family of Forbes, which had been just erected, and the whole of the unfortunate inmates perished. The metrical legend, however, that records this catastrophe, confounds the circumstances with others of a like nature which are unconnected with it; and consequently, the exact names of the parties engaged or suffering on the occasion cannot now be learned.
   The parish is nearly four miles in length, and about three miles and a half in breadth; it is of pretty regular form, but its superficial contents have not been correctly ascertained. Nearly 3000 acres of the land, however, are arable; and the remainder, with the exception of a moderate extent of woodland and plantations, is hill pasture, moor, and waste. The surface is abruptly diversified, and almost surrounded with hills of considerable height, the Soccoch hills, on the south-east, attaining an elevation of 2000 feet above the level of the sea; the hills in the interior are mostly of undulating form, and covered with heath. The aspect of the district towards the south, is bleak and rather destitute of interest. The river Don traverses the parish from west to east, dividing it into two nearly equal portions, and making in its course several graceful windings: from the rapidity of its current through a narrow gravelly channel, it frequently overflows its banks, and lays waste the low lands on either side. The water of Deskry bounds the parish for almost a mile on the west, and taking a north-western course, flows into the Don; the burn of Kindie runs along the north-western boundary of the parish into the same river, which also receives several smaller streams that have their rise in the south and south-east of Towie. The Don abounds with trout of large size and of very superior quality, and formerly salmon were taken in great numbers; but since the use of stake-nets at the mouth, and cruives in the lower parts of the stream, few salmon have ascended so high up the river. The moors are the resort of grouse, partridges, snipes, woodcocks, and wild-ducks, affording ample recreation for sportsmen; many hares are to be found, and considerable numbers of roe-deer are seen in several parts.
   The soil is generally a light friable loam, of no great depth, resting on a gravelly bottom; but in some few places clay, with a hard retentive subsoil. The chief crops are oats and barley, with potatoes, some flax, and the various grasses; and within the last few years, the cultivation of vegetables of most kinds has been gradually increasing. The system of husbandry has been greatly improved; much waste land has been reclaimed; and the steep acclivities of the hills, previously considered as inaccessible to the plough, are now under good cultivation to a considerable height above their base. The lands have been drained and partly inclosed; the farm houses and offices, with very few exceptions, are substantial and commodious; a due regard is paid to a regular rotation of crops, and most of the more recent improvements in the construction of agricultural implements have been adopted. The hills afford good pasture for sheep and black-cattle, of which numbers are reared, and much attention is paid to the improvement of the breeds; the sheep, when fattened, are sent chiefly to the Aberdeen market, and the black-cattle sold, when young, to dealers for the supply of the English markets. There are considerable remains of ancient wood in the north-western part of the parish, and the plantations have for some time been increasing. The rocks are mainly of the trap, magnesian, and primitive limestone formations. The limestone was formerly wrought for agricultural purposes; but owing to its inferior quality, and the difficulty of obtaining fuel, the working of it has been discontinued; and though there are pretty certain indications of freestone, yet from the wet and low situation in which the material occurs, it has not been thought advisable to open any quarries. The rateable annual value of the parish is returned at £2383.
   There are no villages. The St. Andrew Masonic lodge, here, was instituted in 1814, and a spacious hall erected in 1821; the buildings comprise also an excellent and well-frequented inn. A public library, which contains more than 500 volumes of standard works on theology, history, and general literature, was established in 1827, and is well supported by subscription. Fairs, chiefly for cattle, are held annually near the Masonic lodge, at Glenkindie, on the first Monday after Trinity Muir fair in April, and the first Saturday after that of Keith in September; there are also fairs for hiring servants on the days after Whitsuntide and Martinmas. Facility of comunication is afforded by the Aberdeen turnpike-road, which passes through the north of the parish; by the old road from that city, which intersects it on the south; by tolerable roads kept in repair by statute labour, and bridges over the river Don. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Alford and synod of Aberdeen. The minister's stipend is £159. 6. 1., of which about onesixth part is paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum: patron, Sir Alexander Leith, K. C. B. The church, situated nearly in the centre of the parish, is a plain substantial structure with a small campanile turret. The parochial school affords instruction to about ninety children: the master has a salary of £28, with a house and garden, and the fees average £20; he has also a portion of the Dick bequest. Of the ancient castle of Towie, one square tower is remaining, but in a very ruinous state. There are ruins of ancient chapels at Nether Towie, Kinbattoch, Belnaboth, Ley, and Sinnahard; and on the farm of Kinbattoch are several tumuli in which, on being opened in 1750, were found some kistvaens containing urns, human bones, trinkets, and some Roman medals. On the Glaschul, or "grey moor," are also tumuli, which appear to have been raised in commemoration of the defeat of Lord Atholl and his party; and at Fechley is a mound sixty feet in height, 200 feet in length, and 127 feet in breadth, surrounded at the base by a broad fosse, and on the summit of which are the remains of a vitrified fort.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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