Kemnay, p.89.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   KEMNAY, a parish in the district of Garioch, Aberdeenshire, bounded on the north by Inverury; on the east by Kintore; on the south by Cluny; and on the west by Monymusk and Chapel-Garioch. It is divided from Inverury, Monymusk, and Chapel Garioch by the river Don; and the ridge called the Kembs intersects it from south-east to north-west. It is between 4 and 5 miles in length from north to south, by 3 in breadth. On the banks of the Don there are rich, beautiful, and fertile haughs, but the soil is elsewhere a very stony light mould on sand. The low grounds, in general, are arable. There are two mineral springs, the Kemb well and the Spa well, at the foot of the Kembs. Kemnay-house is beautifully situated amongst plantations, parks, and tasteful pleasure-grounds, on the banks of the Don near the middle of the parish. Thomas Burnett, Esq., ancestor of the Burnetts of Kemnay, relation and intimate friend of Dr. Gilbert Burnett, Bishop of Sarum, and also friend and correspondent of the celebrated Leibnitz and other learned men of his time, resided and was buried in this parish. – Population, in 1801, 583; in 1831, 616. Houses 145. Assessed property, in 1815, £1,200. – The parish is in the synod of Aberdeen, and presbytery of Garioch. Patron, the Earl of Kintore. Stipend £158 19s. 2d.; glebe £10. Schoolmaster’s salary £25 13s. 4d.; fees £40, besides a share of the Dick bequest. The parochial school of Kemnay, from an article which recently appeared in that extensively diffused and powerful engine of instruction, ‘Chambers’s Journal,’ appears to be an admirably managed seminary. A visiter thus describes it: “Our way was for some time alongside the Don. We then left the river, and passed for some miles through a country generally barren, till at length we descended upon Kemnay, which appeared to me quite as a green spot in the wilderness. I could imagine no simple rural scene possessed of greater beauty than what was presented by the little group of cottages constituting the parish-school establishment, planted as they are upon somewhat irregular ground, which for some distance around has been laid out with good taste, and exhibits a variety of fine green shrubs. A few years ago, the school and school-house were, as usual in Scotland, merely a couple of cottages in juxtaposition. Mr. Stevenson, the present teacher, has added one new building after another, till it is now a considerable place. His last addition was a pretty large school-room, which is constructed of timber, pitched on the top. One must not wonder at the new buildings not being of a very lasting kind, for not only has the teacher had to do all at his own expense, but he has done it with the certainty that all will become public property when he dies or leaves his situation. The place, nevertheless, seems sufficiently comfortable. The new erections have been made as the views of the teacher, respecting the duties of his charge, expanded, and as his boarding pupils became more numerous. After all, these are as yet only nineteen. Generally, if there is a little garden for common vegetables near a Scottish parish-school, it is all that is to be expected. Here there is a remarkably neat garden, situated on a piece of undulating ground, comprising a pretty piece of water in a serpentine form; while the ground immediately round the new school-room is laid out in shrubbery and flower-borders, with seats and arbours, the whole being in a style which might not shame a gentleman’s mansion. I have never seen finer vegetables, or eaten more delicious fruit, than I did here. Judge my surprise when I was told that the whole is the result of the labours of the children, who are thus taught an useful and tasteful art, and at the same time indulged in a physical recreation highly conducive to their health. My curiosity was excited to know how their labours were conducted. The garden and ground, I understood, are divided into compartments, and so many boys are attached to each. These companies, as they are called, have each a separate set of tools, all of which are kept in the nicest order and arrangement in a small wooden house erected for the purpose. It was singular, you will allow, at a time when industrial education is only beginning to be thought of in England, to find it practised on a large scale, and under the best regulations, in a remote and barren part of the northern county of Aberdeen. I was taken from the garden to a carpentry work-shop, where the boys every day exercise themselves in the ingenious trade of the joiner. They make part of the school furniture, seats for the garden and shrubbery, and many other useful articles. We were now conducted into the school-room, which I found to be a spacious apartment, fitted up with all the conveniences of black boards, &c, as in the most improved schools in Edinburgh, with the addition of something which I had never seen in any similar place, namely, a variety of musical instruments hung upon the walls. I found only the boarders present, for the day was the last of the week, and all the native pupils had been dismissed, at the usual early hour, to their homes. Mr. Stevenson, nevertheless, gave us a small specimen of a concert. Some boys took flutes, other violins, and one or two violas or violoncellos. Mr. Stevenson also took his instrument, and assumed the office of leader. I then heard several pieces of music, amongst which were some sacred pieces, performed in a manner really astonishing, when the ages of the musicians were considered. I may mention that Mr. Stevenson is himself a good musician, and even a composer. The boys are of all ages from six to nineteen, and several of them are from distant parts of the world. Many have made considerable progress in drawing, and in the copying of maps.” 

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