[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]
PORTSOY, a quoad sacra parish on the coast of Banffshire. It was disjoined, in 1836, by authority of the General Assembly, from the parish of Fordyce; and is in the presbytery of Fordyce, and synod of Aberdeen. Its greatest length is 3 miles; its greatest breadth is 2¼ miles; and its superficial extent is about 5 square miles. Population, according to an ecclesiastical survey in 1837, 1,767; of whom 1,589 were churchmen, and 178 were dissenters. All, except 137, were segregated in the burgh of Portsoy. The church was built in 1815, at a cost of £878. Sittings 650. Stipend £120, of which £40 is paid by the Earl of Seafield. – A Scottish Episcopalian congregation was established in Portsoy previous to the Revolution. Their chapel was built in 1797. Sittings 120. Stipend £40. – A Roman Catholic chapel in the burgh was built in 1829, at a cost of £332 15s. 8d. Sittings 176. Stipend about £21. The minister or priest officiates on alternate Sabbaths at Banff.
Portsoy, a small town, a burgh-of-barony, and a considerable sea-port, politically in the parish of Fordyce, and ecclesiastically in that of Portsoy, Banffshire. It is situated on a point of land, on the west side of the little bay or estuary of the rivulet Durn; 6 miles east of Cullen, 7½ west of Banff, 18 east-north-east of Fochabers, 80 east-north-east of Inverness, and 178 north of Edinburgh. The town is irregularly built; but acquires importance both from its antiquity and its recently thriving condition. Its harbour, though small, is safe, and accommodates vessels of upwards of 200 tons burden; and was greatly improved by the Hon. Colonel Grant, now, and since the death of his brother in October, 1840, the Earl of Seafield. Much and successful attention is given to the herring-fishery; a considerable export and import trade is conducted respectively in grain and in coals; and a number of the inhabitants are employed in fish-curing, flax-dressing, and woollen manufactures. Descriptions of the place, written from 50 to 30 years ago, give prominence to manufactures of thread and fine linen for the markets of Nottingham and London. But Portsoy is known both to commerce and to fame chiefly for a very beautiful marble, and several other rare and curious minerals, found in its vicinity, and exported from its harbour. The marble, properly not limestone but serpentine, occurs in a fine vale, and is commonly known as Portsoy marble. It is a beautiful mixture of red, green, and white, and is wrought into teacups, vases, and various small ornaments; but is too hard and brittle to be wrought into chimney-pieces. The other principal minerals are some singular specimens of micaceous schist; a species of asbestos, of a greenish colour, which has been wrought into incombustible cloth; and a remarkable granite, of a flesh colour, which is not known to occur elsewhere in the world, except in Arabia. This granite contains a large proportion of felspar, and shows a brilliancy like the Labrador spar; when viewed in a particular light, it shows a purple and blueish tint; and when polished, it exhibits figures resembling in outline the Arabic alphabetic characters. – The town has a branch-office of the North of Scotland bank. Portsoy was made a burgh-of-barony by charter from Queen Mary; and received a parliamentary ratification of its charter in 1581. The Earl of Seafield is superior, and appoints a baron-bailie and officers. The bailie has the ordinary powers, but holds no regular courts, and usually interposes his authority rather as an arbiter than as a magistrate. The burgh has neither property nor revenue. The only duties imposed are a small amount of custom levied in the weekly market to pay a person for superintending it; and the quota of the burgh towards the sum paid for the relief of the royal burghs, on account of the participation in foreign trade enjoyed by burghs of royalty and barony. – Population, in 1837, 1,630.