Parish of Old Deer

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1791-99: Deer
1834-45: Old Deer

Deer, Old, a village and a parish of Buchan, NE Aberdeenshire. The village stands, 134 feet above sea-level, on the right bank of South Ugie Water, 1¼ mile SW by W of Mintlaw station, this being 9¼ miles W by N of Peterhead, 3¾ E by N of Mand Junction, and 35 N by E of Aberdeen. An ancient place, it has been mostly rebuilt within the past half century, and has a post office under Mintlaw, a branch of the North of Scotland Banking Co., a savings' bank (1825), an inn, a fair (St Drostan's) on the Wednesday after 19 Dec., and two public schools, which, with respective accommodation for 167 scholars and 81 girls, had (1880) an average attendance of 119 and 58, and grants of £92,15s. and £52,14s.

The parish also contains the villages of Stuartfield, Clola, and Fetterangus, 1¼ mile S by W, 35/8 miles SSE, and 2½ miles NNE, of Old Deer village. Its north-eastern portion forming a detached section of Banffshire, it is bounded NW and N by Strichen, NE by Lonmay, E by Longside, SE by Cruden, S by Cruden and Ellon, and W by New Deer. Its utmost length, from N to S, is 91/8 miles; its breadth, from E to W, varies between 4 and 65/8 miles; and its area is 27,439¼ acres, of which 2812 belong to the Banffshire portion. South Ugie Water has here an east-south-easterly course of 67/8 miles; North Ugie Water winds 7 miles east-south-eastward along all the northern and north-eastern border; and before Pitfour House is an artificial lake of 45 acres (32/3 x 1 furl.); whilst springs, either pure or chalybeate, are numerous, and some of them bear such names as Grinie's, Lady, Abbey, Chapel, and Annie's Well. The surface, everywhere undulating, presents an assemblage of low rounded hills, most of them cultivated to the very top; at Baluss Bridge, on the eastern border, it sinks to 100 feet above sea-level, and rises thence north-westward to 397 feet at Drinnies Wood, 410 at Knapperty Hill, 432 at Braeside, and 466 at White Cow Wood-westward and south-westward to 292 at Wuddyhill, 460 at Wind Hill, 551 at the Hill of Dens, 465 near Bulwark, 423 near Little Elrick, 407 near Littlemill, 420 at Slampton Hill, and 392 at Windy Hill-south-south-westward and south-south-eastward to 474 at Skelmuir Hill, 478 near Wester Craighead, and 469 at Smallburn Hill- The prevailing rocks are granite, syenite, and limestone, which have been largely worked at Aikey Brae and other places; and blocks occur of gneiss and pure white quartz- The soil is very diversified, ranging from argillaceous to loamy, sandy, or gravelly. The woods and plantations of Aden, Pitfour, and Kinmundy cover a large extent, and those of the two first comprise some very fine hardwood trees- Woollen mills are at Millbreck and Aden, a brewery and a distillery at Biffie. About 580 Columba and Drostan, his nephew, came from Iona unto Aberdour, and thence to the other town, which pleased Columba, because it was full of God's grace; and he asked of the Mormaer Bede to give it him, and he would not. But, his son falling sick, the Mormaer went to the clerics to ask a prayer of them, and gave them in offering from Cloch in tiprat to Cloch pette mic Garnait- They made the prayer and health returned- Then Columba gave Drostan that cathair, and blessed it, and left as his word, 'Whosoever come against it, let him not be many-yeared victorious-' Drostan weeping as they parted, said Columba, 'Let Deer* be its name henceforward.' Down to the reign of David I- (1124-53) this Columban monastery retained unimpaired its clerical element and Celtic character, according to the priceless testimony of certain Gaelic notices written during that reign on the blank pages of the Book of -Deer, a Latin MS- of the 9th century containing St John's and parts of the other three gospels, the Apostles' Creed, and a fragment of an office for the visitation of the sick, which MS., discovered by Mr H. Bradshaw in 1860 in the library of Cambridge University, was ably edited for the Spalding Club by the late Dr John Stuart in 1869 (Skene's Celtic Scotland, vols. ii., iii., 1877-80). St Mary's Abbey of Deer, on the left bank of South Ugie Water, ¾ mile WNW of the village, was founded, either in 1218 or 1219, by William Comyn, Earl of Buchan, for monks of the Cistercian order, being colonised by three brethren from Kynloss; the last of its abbots, Robert Keith, second son of the fourth Earl Marischal, obtained the erection of its lands into the temporal lordship of Altrie (1587). Early English in style, red sandstone in material, the ruins were enclosed and cleared of rubbish in 1809, when it appeared that the cruciform church must have consisted of chancel, transept, and five-bayed nave with N aisle, the whole measuring 150 by from 27 to 38 ½ feet, or 90 across the transept. Here has been localised the ballad of 'Sir James the Rose,' whose grave is also shown at Haddo in Crimond; on Aikey Brae the Comyns were finally routed by Edward Bruce; and by Aikey-side one of their line, an Earl of Buchan, is said, by his death, whilst hunting, to have verified Thomas the Rhymer's prediction. Vestiges remain of six stone circles; several cairns have yielded stone cists and urns; flint implements have been found in great abundance; and other antiquities are the ruinous manor-house of Clachriach and remains of the small old parish church of Fetter angus. The Stone of Deer, a syenite block standing 6 feet out of the ground at the NW corner of the old Abbey church, is figured in the Sculptured Stones of Scotland (1867), but was demolished about 1854. The principal mansions are Pitfour, Kinmundy, and Aden, the last a good modern building, 3 furlongs ENE of the village, whose owner, Jas. Geo. Ferguson Russell, Esq. (b. 1836; suc. 1875), holds 8402 acres in the shire, valued at £6989 per annum. The rest of the parish is Divided among 16 proprietors, 10 holding each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 1 of between £100 and £500,1 of from £50 to £100, and 4 of from £20 to £50. In the presbytery of Deer and synod of Aberdeen, Old Deer gives off portions to the q. s. parishes of Ardallie, Kininmonth, and Savoch of Deer; the living is worth £388. The parish church, with over 1000 sittings, stands at the village, and, built in 1788, was greatly improved (1880-81) at a cost of £2811, the walls being raised, an entrance porch added, a memorial window inserted, and a clock-tower and spire, 103 feet high, erected of Aikey Brae granite, with a library room on its basement floor. At the village also is St Drostan's Episcopal church (1851; 300 sittings), Early English in style, and rich in painted glass; other places of worship are noticed under Stuartfield, Mand, and Clola. Six schools, all public but the last, which is endowed, are at Bank, Clochcan, Bulwark, Shannas, Stuartfield (girls'), and Fetterangus (do.); and these, with respective accommodation for 100,110,62,110,140, and 76 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 61,107,43, 94,130, and 69, and grants of £50,8s. 6d., £72,1s., £33,19s., £73,9s., £100,6s., and £61,4s. 6d. Valuation (1843) £13,165, (1882) £30.372,12s. 10d. Pop. of civil parish (1801) 3552, (1821) 3841, (1841) 4453, (1861) 5174, (1871) 5085, (1881) 4935; of registration district (1881) 4274.—Ord. Sur., sh. 87,1876.

* I.e., Gael. der, now deur, 'a tear.' Dair, 'an oak,' has been suggested as a more likely etymon.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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