Banff, pp.102-105.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   BANFF,1 a parish in Banffshire; bounded on the north by the Moray frith; on the east by Gamrie, and Alvah parishes; on the south by Marnoch parish; and on the west by that of Boyndie. The Deveron river separates it from Gamrie; and the Boyndie, from Boyndie parish. The surface is pleasingly diversified, and is estimated in Robertson’s map at 6,312 acres, and in the old Statistical account at 7,680 acres. About 250 acres are under wood. It is generally supposed that a considerable part of this parish towards the south-west was, in ancient times, covered with wood, and belonged to the forest of Boin. A simple distich, which Tradition has handed down, confirms this opinion:- 

“From Culbirnie to the sea, 

 You may step from tree to tree.” 

Culbirnie is a farm-hamlet about 3 miles distant from the sea. The turnpike road from Aberdeen to Inverness passes through the northern part of the parish from east to west. The principal landholders are, the Earl of Fife, the Earl of Seafield, and Sir Robert Abercromby of Birkenbog. Duff house, the mansion of the Earl of Fife, is a noble edifice in the Roman style; and contains some fine paintings. See article DUFF HOUSE. The old castle of Inchdrewer, about 4 miles south-west of the town, is still entire. It is only remarkable as having been the scene of Lord Banff’s death, under very suspicious circumstances, in 1713. Banff castle, in the environs of the town of Banff, has descended to the Earl of Seafield. It was the family-seat and birth-place of James Sharp, archbishop of St. Andrews, who was born in 1613. The Bairds of Auchmedden in this parish are a very ancient family. Of this family are descended the Bairds of Newbyth in East Lothian; and of the same family it is asserted, in Rose of Mount-coffer’s manuscripts, – but with little probability we think, – was the celebrated Boyardo, the author of the ‘Orlando Innamorata.’ Population, in 1801, 3,572; in 1831, 3,711, of whom 2,935 were in the town of Banff. Houses 670, of which 498 were in the town. Valued rent of the landward part of the parish £2,313 Scots. Real rental in 1798, including the salmon-fishings, and town lands, £4,500. – The parish of Banff is in the synod of Aberdeen, and presbytery of Fordyce. It was united with Inverboyndie till 1634. Patron, the Earl of Seafield. Minister’s stipend £245 19s. 9d., with a glebe of the value of £35. Unappropriated teinds £280 3s. 3d. Church built in 1790, at a cost of £1,961; sittings 1,300. The upper district of the parish is under the charge of a missionary who officiates at Ord chapel, distant about 5 miles from Banff. See ORD. The parish-minister reckoned 3,050 adherents of the established church in this parish in 1837, and 610 dissenters. – There are several dissenting places of worship in the town of Banff, but their statistics will be here given. A Scottish Episcopal church has existed here since the abolition of Episcopacy in Scotland. Chapel built in 1833-4. Cost £1,000. Sittings 356. Salary from £110 to £115. – A United Secession congregation was established in 1822. Chapel built in 1823, at an expense of £800. Sittings 490. Stipend £100. – An Independent church was formed in 1808. Chapel built in 1834, at an expense of £500. Sittings 400. Stipend £60, with a manse and garden. – A Wesleyan Methodist congregation was formed in 1767, and a chapel built in 1818. Cost £300; sittings 300. Salary £50. – There is also a Roman Catholic congregation which assembles in the upper story of a bouse in the town, their own property. Sittings 110. The priest officiates alternately at Portsay and Banff. – There is no legally established parochial school; but the rector of the grammar-school in Banff, founded in 1786, receives the parochial salary. This school was attended by about 180 children in 1834. And there were also at that date 15 private schools, within the bounds of the parish, attended by above 500 children. 

   The royal burgh of Banff is situated in the north-east corner of the parish, on the peninsula formed by the influx of the Deveron into the Moray frith. It was a part of the ancient thanedom of Boin, whence the name seems to be derived. In some old charters it is spelled Boineffe and Baineffe. The district of Boin has probably received its name from a conspicuous mountain in the neighbourhood of Cullen, called the Binn. On the south side of this hill, at Darbrich, the forester had his dwelling; and it is well known that the forestry and thanedom territory extended thence to the borough-lands of Banff, divided only by the water of Boyndie. The town occupies a fine declivity opening to the east and south-east, and commanding a charming prospect. Tradition has assigned a very early origin to Banff as a royal burgh. In 1165, William the Lion gave a toft and garden in this burgh to the Bishop of Moray; and Robert I. confirmed its privileges. But the earliest charter extant is one of Robert II., dated October 7, 1372; and the governing charter is one of James VI., dated May 9, 1581, which was renewed when that sovereign attained the age of 25. The citadel in ancient times, similar to the castles of Edinburgh and Stirling, occupied a mount originally at the end, though now near the middle of the town. It was a constabulary of the same constitution with that of Elgin or Nairn: some remains of its ancient strength, both in the walls and in the moat, may yet be traced. The lands of Blairshinnoch were bestowed by David Bruce in 1364, for furnishing a soldier to attend the king in his court apud castrum de Banffe. Being the seat of justice, it was the residence of the constable or sheriff, in the absence of the court. This office, in ancient times hereditary, was occasionally transferred to different families, and in 1683 was purchased by the family of Findlater, by whom the castle was transformed into a pleasant residence, fitted up in the modern style. 

   The town was formerly governed by a provost, 4 baillies, and 12 councillors. It is now governed by a provost, 4 magistrates, and 17 councillors. Municipal constituency, in 1838, 133. The territory over which the jurisdiction of the burgh is exercised extends from the burn-mouth of Boyndie, across the Gallowhill, to the Spittal Myre, and thence to the sea at Palmer cove. Macduff, a burgh of barony, is situate within the parliamentary boundaries of Banff; but is altogether an independent borough. The magistrates used to claim the right of patronage over the parish church, but have never shown a title to it. They have five mortifications under their management, viz.: 1st, Cassie’s bounty, consisting of £10,000, the interest of which is half-yearly distributed among indigent persons. 2d, Smith’s bounty, which is also a sum of £10,000, yielding an yearly dividend of £308 18s. 8d. The objects of this charity are, first, to pay £25 of additional stipend to the minister of Fordyce; and, secondly, to apply the remainder to the maintenance and education during five years, of boys of the name of Smith, at an yearly allowance of £25 for each. The academy for this purpose is at Fordyce, and the teacher has a salary of £40, with a free house, a garden, and about 10 acres of ground. 3d, Perrie’s free school, being a mortification of £1,100 for educating poor children, and from which a salary of £40 is paid to a schoolmaster, who has also a free house and garden, and from 80 to 90 pupils. 4th, Wilson’s charity, consisting of a sum of between £5,000 and £6,000. 5th, Smith’s mortification, being a sum of £1,000. – There are in Banff six incorporated trades. No one can carry on business as a merchant without becoming a guild-brother. The property of the burgh consists of lands and houses, salmon-fishings, feu-duties, public buildings, and markets. The value of the lands, in 1833, was £2,014 10s. The revenue of the burgh, in 1833, was £1,304; expenditure £1,336. In 1838-9, the revenue was £1,172. The total estimated value of the burgh-property, in 1834, was £22,961. The total amount of debts, in 1833, was £14,298. In 1763, the debt was only £20; although so early as 1470, the burgh was under embarrassments. At that time it was held by the public functionaries that they had no power to increase their revenues, except by leasing their property. The magistrates, therefore, without fraud, and upon their “great aith, with consent of all and sundry neighbours of Banff,” let out to certain burgesses, for 19 years, the whole salmon fishings, consisting of 12 nets, for the “infefting and foundation makkin of a perpetual chaplenary, to sing in the peil heife2 of the burgh, for our sovereign lord the king and queen, their predecessors and successors, – for all Christians soules, – for the theiking of the kirk with sclate, and the bigging of the tolbuthe, – and for quhat the burgh has not substance.” It is believed that similar leases were granted until 1581, when there was obtained the charter, formerly referred to, giving power to feu to the resident burgesses and their heirs male. In 1595 the provost, bailies, and certain other persons, were appointed commissioners to carry the power into execution. The instructions to them bear that, “because of the warres and troubles, the darth of the country and scantiness of victual, with exorbitant stents and taxations for supporting the warres, the public warkes, and uphading of the kirk, tolbuthe, and calsies, &c.; for remeid whereof this empowers to set, sell, and few the common land and salmon fishings of the burgh to merchant burgers and actual residenters.” By virtue of these powers these commissioners did alienate, for a small feu-duty, the greater part of the burgal-lands and salmon-fishings. The limitation in the charter, that the alienations should be made only to resident burgesses, and their heirs male, either never had been in observance, or quickly fell into disuse. Nor does the forfeiture emerging if a burgess should alienate to other than to a resident burgess, appear to have been operative. The greater part of the property was acquired by neighbouring proprietors, including the families of Fife, Findlater, and Banff. The last alienation of any importance, which has been traced, was in 1783, when the provost purchased about 20 acres of the burgh-lands, for 20 years’ purchase of a feu-duty of 1s. 6d. per acre. It constitutes a wholesome feature in the municipal arrangements of Banff that the cess and other public burdens and taxations are levied annually by a Head court – as it is called – consisting of all the heritors and burgesses within burgh. – Banff unites with Elgin, Cullen, Inverury, Peterhead, Macduff, and Kintore in returning a member to parliament. The parliamentary constituency, in 1839, was 203. The parliamentary borough boundaries extend from the Little Tumbler rocks on the shore to the westward of Banff, and the mineral well of Tarlair to the eastward of Portsoy, so as to include the recently erected town of Macduff. 

   The town of Banff comprises several well-built streets. The church, and the town-house, are each handsome structures; and there are several very substantial private houses, – the town being, to a considerable extent, a place of resort for genteel families of small private fortune, being deemed the most fashionable town north of Aberdeen. The town is usually described as consisting of two parts, – the upper and the lower town, – or the town, and the sea-town. Between these, on an elevated piece of ground, stands the castle. The harbour, which lies to the north of the town, on the west side of the bay, is neither commodious nor good, owing to the continual shitting of the banks at the mouth of the river; that of Macduff, at the opposite extremity of the bay, is much the better of the two. In 1816, about £18,000 were spent in improvements on the harbour, and a vessel drawing 12 feet can enter the new basin at ordinary high water. There is little trade and no manufactures in the town; there is an extensive distillery in the neighbourhood; the fisheries are extensive, and there is a large annual export of fish from the port of Banff. The Deveron salmon-fishings are rented at about £1,800, and the fish caught at them are principally sent to the London market. In 1831, 1,759 barrels of herrings were cured here; in 1835, 631 barrels. These are exported to London, Ireland, and Germany. Live cattle, and grain, are also exported to London. The port of Banff includes the creeks of Fraserburgh, Gardenstown, Macduff, Portsoy, Port-Gordon, and Garmouth. The registered tonnage and shipping belonging to the port, in 1834, was 67 vessels of an aggregate tonnage of 4,301 tons. The amount of customs’ duty collected at the port, in 1835, was £1,112; in 1837, £1,164. The town was first lighted with gas in 1831. There is a good suite of public baths; and a very commodious market built in 1830. There are four yearly fairs, of which the Brandon or Whitsunday fair is the largest. The others are held on January 7th, the 1st Tuesday in February, O.S.; the 1st Friday in August, O.S.; and the Friday before the 22d of November. The Commercial bank of Scotland, and the National Bank, have branches in this town. A Savings bank was instituted in 1815. 

   Banff is 165 miles north-east of Edinburgh; 80 east of Inverness; 7 east of Portsoy; 45½ north-west of Aberdeen; and 22 west of Fraserburgh. The road from Aberdeen approaches the town by a handsome bridge of 7 arches, which crosses the Deveron about 650 yards above its mouth, and about 2 miles below the bridge of Alvah; immediately below the fine policies of Duff house. During the great floods of 1829, these parks were laid under water to the depth of 14 feet, the whole of the lower streets in the town completely inundated, and the bridge itself in great danger of being swept away. The former bridge was swept away by a flood in 1768. Banff gives the title of Baron to the Ogilvie family. – We shall bring this article to a close with a few historical memoranda. In 1644, the lairds of Gight, Newton, and Ardlogie, with a party of 40 horse, and musketeers, all, in the language of Spalding, “brave gentlemen,” made a raid upon the good town of Banff, and plundered it of buff-coats, pikes, swords, carabines, pistols, “yea, and money also,” grievously amercing the baillies, and compelling them to subscribe a renunciation of the Covenant. In 1645, Montrose, following the example so recently set him by his adherents, inarched into Banff, plundered the same “pitifully,” carried off all goods and gear on which he could lay his hands, burnt some worthless houses, and left “no man on the street but was stripped naked to his skin!” – On the 7th of November, 1700, the famous James Macpherson, with some associates, was brought to trial before the sheriff of Banff, and being found guilty “by ane verdict of ane assyse, to be knaive, holden and repute, to be Egyptians and vagabonds, and oppressors of his majesty’s free lieges in ane bangstrie manner,” were condemned to be executed on Friday the 16th of the same month of November. The sentence was carried into execution against Macpherson only. He was a celebrated violin player, and, it is affirmed, performed at the foot of the gallows, on his favourite instrument, the rant which bears his name, besides reciting several rude stanzas by way of a last speech and confession.3 –  On the 10th of November, 1746, the duke of Cumberland’s troops passed through Banff on their way to Culloden, and signalized themselves by destroying the Episcopal chapel, and hanging a poor countryman whom they suspected of being a spy. In 1759, a French vessel of war appearing off the coast threw the worthy burghers into no small consternation, and suggested the expediency of erecting a battery for the future protection of the harbour. The following curious comparative notices are from the Old Statistical account of Banff, [vol. xx. pp. 363 – 365.] drawn up by the Rev. Abercromby Gordon in 1798:- 

   A gown of linsey-woolsey was the usual dress of a laird’s daughter, Veii’d in a simple robe, her best attire, Beyond the pomp of dress. THOMSON.  Her mother, indeed – who was dignified with the knightly title of lady – appeared on great occasions in a silk gown, and fine laces, which were considered as part of the paraphernalia destined to the succeeding generation. Ladies seldom wore any other than coloured stockings. The town could only boast of one silken pair, and these were black. The occupation of milliner was totally unknown.    The decoration of our persons is now become a more general study among both sexes, and all ranks. In order to accommodate their dress to the capricious rules of fashion, there is a frequent, and some times a needless, recourse to the “foreign aid of ornament.” The art millinery affords employment and profit to many; and every trading vessel from London brings a fresh assortment of dresses, adjusted to the prevailing mode. 
   1748. A four-wheeled carriage was a luxury seldom enjoyed, unless by the nobility. A gentleman and his wife generally rode together on the same horse. Drawing-rooms and dining-parlours were no less rare than carriages. Mahogany was seldom seen, save in the tea-tray, the round folding table, and the corner cupboard.    1798. Post-chaises are now in general use. Several private gentlemen keep their carriages. The pad is become the exclusive property of the country good-wile. The minister of the parish must have his drawing-room. Mahogany is a species of timber in general use for articles of furniture; and the corner press is superseded by the splendid side-board. 
   1748. When wants were fewer, and easily supplied, most of the useful articles of merchandise might be procured in the same shop. The various designations of grocer, iron-monger, and haberdasher, were little known, and almost every trader, even although he did not traffic to foreign countries, was denominated merchant.    1798. The several distinctions of tradesmen are better understood. As ministers to our luxury, we have in the same street an oil man, who advertises the sale of Quin sauce, Genoa capers, and Gorgona anchovies, &c.; a confectioner, whose bills contain the delectable names of non-pareils, ice-cream, and apricot jelly, &c.; and a perfumer, who deals in such rare articles, as Neapolitan cream for the face, Persian dentifrice for the teeth, and Asiatic balsam for the hair. 
   1748. A joyous company, after dinner, have been seen quaffing the wine of a dozen bottles from a single glass.    1798. A sober party sometimes meet, whose libation consists of a solitary bottle, with a dozen glasses. 
   1748. Agreeable to Queen Mary’s act of parliament, A.D. 1563, all butcher-meat was carried to market, skin and birn, and agreeable to custom, was sold amidst abounding filth.    1798. There are convenient slaughter-houses apart, and meat is brought to market seemly and in good order.
   1748. The annual wages of a great man’s butler was about £8; his valet, £5; and his other servants £3. The famer had his ploughman for 13s. 4d. in the half-year, with the allowance of a pair shoes. The wages of a maid-servant, 6s. 8d.    1798. The nobleman pays at least in a quadruple ratio for his servants. The wages of a ploughman vary from £10 to £12, and of a maid-servant from £3 to £3 10s. per annum. [These wages were nearly the same in 1840.] 
   1773. When Dr. Johnson honoured Banff with a visit, he was pleased to observe, that the natives were more frugal of their glass, (in windows,) than the English. They will often, says the Doctor, “in houses not otherwise mean, compose a square of two pieces, not joining like cracked glass, but with one edge laid perhaps half an inch over the other. Their windows do not move upon hinges, but are pushed up and drawn down in grooves. He that would have his window open, must hold it with his hand, unless – what may sometimes be found among good contrivers – there be a nail, which he may stick into a hole, to keep it from falling.”    1798. Many of our windo’s are furnished with weights and pullies. We think of the necessity of ventilating human habitations, where we may enjoy the luxury of fresh air, without resorting to the contrivance of a nail, and with very little assistance from the hand.  

Comparative Statement of the Prices of Cattle, Sheep, Provisions, &c., at the above periods, and in 1840:-

A draught ox, £1 13s. 4d. £15, £20, and £25. £16 to £18. 
20 sheep, small size, £4. £12. £16 to £20. 
Beef and mutton, 1d. and 1½d. a pound. 5½d., and 6d. per lb. 6d. per lb. 
A hen, together with a dozen eggs, 4d. Hen, without eggs, 1s. and 1s. 3d. 1s. 
Dozen eggs, 1d. 4d. and 6d. 6d. per doz. 
Goose, 2s. a pair. 5s. 6d. 6s. per pair. 
Turkey, 3s. ditto. 7s. 7s. per do. 
Pigeons, three half-pence ditto. 6d. 6d. 
14 Haddocks, three halfpence. 1s. 6d. 1s. 3d. 
Claret sold at 1s. a bottle. Claret sells in the tavern at 6s. 9s. 

1  Always pronounced Bamff.  

2  The Pool-haven, where formerly boats and small craft were moored. It is now the burying-ground. 

3  The curious reader will find a full notice of this wild outlaw, in Motherwell’s Notes to ‘Macpherson’s Farewell,’ in the 2d vol. of Burns’ Works, p. 178; and some additional details in the New Statistical account of the parish of Banff.