Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Slains

Slains, a coast parish of Buchan, E Aberdeenshire, containing the fishing-village of Collieston, 6 miles E by S of Ellon, under which it has a post office. It comprises the ancient parish of Forvie; in outline resembles a triangle, with south-south-westward apex; and is bounded N by Cruden, SE by the German Ocean, and W by Foveran and Logie-Buchan. Its utmost length, from N by E to S by W, is 7 miles; its utmost width is 43/8 miles; and its area is 9276 acres. The Burn of Forvie flows 43/8 miles south-by-westward along the western border to the tidal Ythan, which, with a high-water breadth here of from 1 furlong to ½ mile, winds 2¾ miles south-by-eastward to its mouth in the German Ocean along all the rest of the Logie-Buchan and Foveran boundary. At Waterside of Slains it is crossed by a bridge, erected in 1876 at a cost of £4000. The coast-line, 6 5/8 miles in extent, has a general south-south-westerly trend, and S of Hackley Head is fringed by the Sands of Forvie, a desert of links between the sea and the Ythan, rolled into knolls and little peaks, and scantily covered with bent. Tradition differs as to the date when Forvie was overwhelmed by sand, one account referring it to the middle of the 15th century, another to the reign of James VII.; but both concur in scribing the calamity to a furious nine days' easterly gale. Northward the coast grows rocky and precipitous, attaining 100 feet at Hackley Head, 131 near the parish church, 193 near Oldcastle, and 122 at Bruce's Haven. The cliffs are indented by numbers of little creeks, are torn and piled in terrible confusion, exhibit deep ghastly chasms, and are pierced profoundly with numerous caverns. One of the caves, Hell's Lum, is upwards of 200 feet long, and in places 30 feet high; another, the Dropping Cave or White Cave of Slains, is so richly incrusted with stalactites, and profusely watered with the calcareous drippings from a porous rock which forms them, that though the whole was swept away for transmutation into manure, a new coating, similar in appearance to carved white marble, was very rapidly formed. In the old smuggling days so well described in John Skelton's Crookit Meg (1 880), these caves were great contraband storehouses; and a spot near the church was the scene of a desperate fray, in which Philip Kenney was slain by a revenue officer, 19 Dec. 1798. A round hill of solid rock near the manse is pierced by the ` Needle's Eye, ' a fissure 30 yards long, 4 feet wide, and 20 to 30 feet high, through which, in an easterly gale, the waves rush with terrific violence. In a neighbouring creek, St Catherine's Dub, the ` St Catherine, ' one of the Spanish Armada, was wrecked in 1588; and a cast-iron gun was raised here in 1855. Along the western border the surface declines to less than 50 feet above sea-level; but elsewhere the interior is high though hardly hilly, attaining 264 feet near the northern boundary and 216 at the Kippet Hills on the northern shore of the Muckle Loch (4 x 2 1/3 furl.; 134 feet). This, lying towards the centre of the parish, is much the largest of four small fresh-water lakes, the others being Little, Cotehill, and Sand Lochs. Gneiss and mica slate are the chief rocks of the cliffs; gravel and small limestone boulders form the Kippet Hills; and a caustic calcareous sand, suitable to be spread over newly reclaimed clay land, and long used in a general way as a manure, prevails over much of the sandy waste. The soil is of every variety, from the lightest sand to the heaviest clay. A great extent of land, formerly waste, has been reclaimed, and more than 7000 acres are now under the plough. On Brownhill farm the late Mr Gordon of Cluny introduced the steam plough into Aberdeenshire, 24 April 1872. Only at Pitlurg are there any trees, and they have a stunted appearance. The chief antiquity is the ruin of Slains Castle, crowning a steep peninsulated rock, 120 feet high, whose base is washed by the sea. This castle was very extensive and of great strength, the only approach to it being a narrow defile which a handful of brave men could have held against any force; but a fishing village, with about 80 inhabitants, now occupies most of its site. From the early part of the 14th century it was the stronghold of the Hays of Erroll, but was demolished in 1594 by James VI., on occasion of the eighth Earl of Erroll having joined in the Earl of Huntly's rebellion. The foundation of the old church of Forvie may still be traced on the Links; and 3 furlongs SSE of Pitlurg is the ivied gable of St Adamnan's Chapel, with a Gothic window nearly entire. William Robinson Pirie, D.D., Principal of Aberdeen University, was born at the manse in 1804. Pitlurg House, 6 miles ENE of Ellon and 3¼ N by W of Collieston, was built in 1828, and belongs to Alexander Gordon-Cumming-Skene, Esq. of Parkhill. Slains is in the presbytery of Ellon and the synod of Aberdeen; the living is worth £294. The parish church, ¼ mile N by E of Collieston, was built in 1806, and contains 654 sittings. It was thoroughly repaired and renovated in 1882; and a new manse was built in 1876. There is also a Free church; and three schools -Collieston public, Slains public, and the endowed Bruce-Hay girls'-with respective accommodation for 50, 100, and 72 children, had (1884) an average attendance of 55, 66, and 40, and grants of £40, 6s., £45, 4s., and £31, 1s. Valuation (1860) £6328, (1885) £6838, 5s. 9d. Pop. (1801) 970, (1831) 1134, (1861) 1266, (1871) 1355, (1881) 1256, of whom 421 were in Collieston.—Ord. Sur., shs. 87, 77, 1876-73.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a coast parish"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 4th order divisions")
Administrative units: Slains ScoP       Aberdeenshire ScoCnty
Place: Slains

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