Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Turriff

Turriff, a town and a parish of NW Aberdeenshire. The town stands, 166 feet above sea-level, near the right bank of Idoch Water or the Burn of Turriff, and ¾ mile ESE of Eastside Bridge across the river Deveron, a three-arch sandstone structure, erected in 1826 at a cost of more than £2500. It has a station on the Turriff and Macduff branch (1857-60) of the Great North of Scotland railway, 11 ¾ miles S by E of Macduff, 18 N of Inveramsay Junction, and 38 ½ NNW of Aberdeen. With a. central square, from which a number of streets diverge, the town is mainly built of red Delgaty sandstone, somewhat dingy in hue; but the general aspect is neat and clean, the shops are good, and Turriff on the whole is one of the most flourishing smaller towns in the N of Aberdeenshire. It has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and railway telegraph departments, branches of the Commercial, North of Scotland, Union, and Town and County Banks, a local savings' bank (1817), 8 insurance agencies, 2 hotels, a gas company (1839), a slaughter-house (1876), agricultural and horticultural societies, a Young Men's Christian Association, with a reading-room, etc. The new North of Scotland Bank, erected in 1875, is the most striking edifice, Scottish Baronial in style, with a square clocktower, 63 feet high. The ancient market-cross, 20 feet high, was repaired in 1841, and re-erected in 1865. The old parish church ' is supposed to have been built by Malcolm Ceannmor ' (1058-93); but its dedication to St Comgan or St Congan inclines one to refer its foundation to the latter half of the 7th century. Marjory, Countess of Buchan, gave it in 1214 to Arbroath Abbey; and in 1272 Alexander Comyn, Earl of Buchan, attached. it to an almshouse or hospital for thirteen poor husbandmen of Buchan. This establishment had a warden and six chaplains, who wore the dress of secular monks; and it possessed, with some limitations, the right of sanctuary for criminals. King Robert Bruce appears to have further endowed it for the maintenance of a chaplain to say masses for his brother Nigel Bruce, slain by the English after their capture of the Castle of Kildrummy. In 1412 the church was erected into a prebend of Aberdeen, and its parsons or prebendaries of the parish seem to have always been the wardens of the hospital; at least, from that date till the Reformation, they held the lands with which the Earl of Buchan had endowed it. In 1511, the whole kirklands, village, and glebe were, by a charter under the great seal, erected into a free burgh-of-barony, in favour of Thomas Dickson, prebendary of Turriff. The church is said to have been a stately structure, 120 feet long and 18 wide; but only the choir and belfry remain. The belfry contains a fine toned bell, hearing date 1557, which, having for thirty-four years been transferred to the new parish church, was restored to its former position in 1828, when a clock was purchased by public subscription; and in the choir has been discovered a curious wallpainting of St Ninian. A monument on the N wall bears the date 1636, and six Latin elegiacs on one of the Barclays of Tollie. In the churchyard are several other interesting monuments, belonging to the 16th and the 17th century; and here, too, is buried Bishop Alexander Jolly, D.D. (1755-1838), the first ten years of whose ministry were spent at Turriff. (See FraserBurgh.) The present parish church was built in 1794, and enlarged in 1830. A plain but commodious edifice, it was adorned in 1875 with a stained-glass window to the memory of the late Garden William Duff, Esq. of Hatton. The Free church, built soon after the Disruption, is a somewhat more ambitious structure. St Congan's Episcopal church (1867) is a good Early English building, consisting of porch, nave, a SW tower and spire 80 feet high, and chancel - the last erected as a memorial of Bishop Jolly. It has an organ and several fine-stained wndows.

Bleaching, dyeing, and the manufacture of carpets (started in 1760), of linen yarn (1767), and of woollen cloth, belong wholly or almost wholly to the past; and the pickled pork trade is now the staple industry, Turriff in this respect having earned the title of the `Chicago of Scotland.' At the station are coal, lime, and manure stores, a steam-mill, and a large granary. Cattle markets are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month; and feeing markets on the Saturday before 27 May, the fourth Wednesday of July, and the Saturday before 23 Nov. A burgh of barony since 1511, the town adopted certain provisions of the Police Improvement (Scotland) Act of 1850 in 1858, and in 1874 nearly all the provisions of the Lindsay Act; so that, as a police burgh, it is now governed by a senior and two junior magistrates and 6 police commissioners. There are burgh police and justice of peace courts; and sheriff small debt courts sit four times a year, in March, June, Sept., and Dec. The municipal voters numbered 370 in 1883-84, when the annual value of real property amounted to £4882, whilst the revenue, including assessments, was £379. Pop. of town (1821) 922, (1841) 1309, (1861) 1843, (1871) 2277, (1881) 2304, of whom 1281 were females. Houses (1881) 564 inhabited, 18 vacant, 2 building.

Turriff or Turra, as the name is vulgarly pronounced, has been variously derived from the Gaelic torr, `a mound or round hill,' and tur, `a tower.' In support of the latter etymology, the writer in the New Statistical (18 42) observes that ` in the memory of persons alive till lately the remains of towers were to be seen; and those of one of them still exist in the gateway and vaults of an old and now almost ruinous building known by the name of "Castle Rainy." ' The Knights-Templars appear to have had an establishment at Turriff or property in its vicinity; and a spot of ground on the S still bears the name of Temple Brae. On 22 April 1589 James VI. passed a night in Turriff, which fifty years later made its first and last prominent figure in history. Early in 1639 the Marquis of Huntly assembled his forces first at Turriff, and afterwards at Kintore, whence he marched upon Aberdeen, which he took possession of in name of the King. The Marquis, being informed shortly after his arrival in Aberdeen that a meeting of Covenanters, who resided within his district, was to be held at Turriff on 14 Feb., resolved to disperse them. He therefore wrote letters to his chief dependants, requiring them to meet him at Turriff the same day, and bring with them no arms but swords and `schottis' or pistols. One of these letters fell into the hands of the Earl of Montrose, then one of the chief Covenanting lords, who determined at all hazards to protect the meeting of his friends, the Covenanters. In pursuance of this resolution he collected with great alacrity some of his best friends in Angus, and with his own and their dependants, to the number of about 800 men, he crossed the mountain range between Angus and Aberdeenshire, and took possession of Turriff on the morning of 14 Feb. When Huntly's party arrived during the course of the day, they were surprised at seeing the little churchyard of the village filled with armed men; and they were still more surprised to observe them levelling their hagbuts at them across the walls of the churchyard. Not knowing how to act in the absence of the Marquis, they retired to a place called the Broad Ford of Towie, about 2 miles S of the village, where they were soon joined by Huntly and his suite. After some consultation the Marquis paraded his men in order of battle along the NW side of the village in sight of Montrose, and dispersed his party, which amounted to 2000 men, without offering to attack Montrose, on the pretence that his commission of lieutenancy only authorised him to act on the defensive. This bloodless affair is known as the `First Raid of Turray.' Three months later a body of the Covenanters, to the number of about 2000, having assembled at Turriff, the Gordons resolved instantly to attack them before they should be joined by other forces, which were expected to arrive before the 20th of May. Taking along with them four brass fieldpieces from Strathbogie, the Gordons, to the number of 800 horse and foot, commenced their march on 13 May at ten o'clock at night, and reached Turriff next morning by daybreak by a road unknown to the sentinels of the Covenanting army. As soon as they approached the town the commander of the Gordons ordered the trumpets to be sounded and the drums to be beat, the noise of which was the first indication the Covenanters had of their arrival. Being thus surprised the latter had no time to make any preparations for defending themselves. They made, indeed, a brief resistance, but were soon dispersed by the fire from the field-pieces, leaving behind them the lairds of Echt and Skene, and a few others, who were taken prisoners. The loss on either side in killed and wounded was very trifling. The skirmish, which is called by writers of the period `the Trott of Turray,' has `some claim to commemoration, since in this distant village,' says Dr Hill Burton, `the first blood was spilt in the great civil war. It was remembered, too, in the North, though the many turns in the mighty conflict drove it out of memory elsewhere, that it was on the side of the Cavaliers that the sword was first drawn.'

The parish contains also Auchterless station at its southern, and Plaidy station at its northern, extremity, the former being 4 miles SSE, and the latter 4 ¼ N by E, of Turriff station. It is bounded N by King-Edward, E by Monquhitter, SE by Fyvie, S by Auchterless, and SW, W, and NW by Inverkeithny, Marnoch, and Forglen, in Banffshire. Its utmost length, from N by W to S by E, is 7 3/8miles; its breadth varies between 23/8 and 6 1/8 miles; and its area is 28 4/5square miles or 18, 488 2/3 acres, of which 102½ are water. The beautiful river Deveron curves 1 1/8 mile northward, 3 ¼ miles east-north-eastward, and 2 ¼ north-north-westward along all the Marnoch and Forglen boundary; and Idoch Water, its affluent, after roughly tracing 1 3/8 mile of the Monquhitter boundary, flows 3 3/8 miles west-south-westward and north-westward through the interior. This stream is subject to freshets, and in the great flood of 1829 rose 11 feet above its ordinary level. The drainage thus mainly belongs to the basin of the Deveron, but is partly carried- south-eastward by some little head-streams of the river Ythan, which rise and run on the southern border. Perennial springs of excellent water are numerous; mineral springs of different qualities are in several places; a medicinal spring of some local note, called the Physic Well, is in the immediate vicinity of the town; and saints' or holy wells, long regarded with superstitious veneration, are in two or three places. Beside the Deveron the surface declines to less than 100 feet above sea-level; and N of Idoch Water it rises to 330 feet near Delgaty West Lodge, 450 at Hill of Wrae, and 614 at the Hill of Brackens, S to 392 at Hospital Wood and 537 at Hillhead of Ardmiddle. Thus, Turriff, as compared with most other Aberdeenshire parishes, may be called hilly, and presents, on the whole, a beautiful appearance. Silurian rocks, chiefly greywacke, greywacke slate, and clay slate in numerous alternations, predominate, in about three-fourths of the entire area, all inward from the Deveron; the greywacke has been largely- worked for buildings, drains, pavement flags, and road metal, and partially for roofing. Devonian rocks, partly conglomerates, partly dull red sandstones, often micaceous, predominate throughout the eastern district, and are quarried for the uses of house-masonry. The soil, on the low grounds adjacent to the streams, is argillaceous alluvium, and elsewhere is much of it sharp, light, and gravelly - fertile, and very early. Nearly two-thirds of the entire area are in tillage; one-seventh is under wood; and most of the rest of the parish is either pastoral or waste. Antiquities, other than those noticed under Balquholly and Towie-Barclay, are cairns, tumuli, and standing-stones, supposed to have been memorials of ancient battles with the Danes, the alleged site of the residence of a prince celebrated by Ossian, and the site of two pre-Reformation chapels. Mansions are Armiddle, Balquholly, Delgaty Castle, Glenesk, Hatton Castle, Laithers, and Muiresk; and 9 proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards. Turriff is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Aberdeen; the living is worth £393. Five public schools Ardmiddle, Birkenhills, Fintray, Turriff, and Turriff Female - with respective accommodation for 100, 80, 115, 380, and 185 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 71, 69, 77, 289, and 129, and grants of £67, 9s. 6d., £66, 14s. 6d., £63, 7s., £261, 3s., and £112, 17s. 6d. Valuation (1860) £12, 323, (1885) £21, 814, 12s., plus £9674 for railway. Pop. (1801) 2090, (1831) 2807, (1861) 3693, (1871) 4348, (1881) 4343.—Ord. Sur., sh. 86, 1876.

The presbytery of Turriff comprises the quoad civilia parishes of Alvah, Auchterless, Drumblade, Forglen, Forgue, Fyvie, Gamrie, Inverkeithny, King-Edward, Monquhitter, and Turriff, the quoad sacra parishes of Macduff, Millbrex, Newbyth, Ythan-Wells,. and Gardenstown, and the chapelry of Fyvie St Mary's. Pop. (1871) 30, 446, (1881) 29, 659, of whom 9840 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in 1883. - The Free Church also has a presbytery of Turriff, with churches at Anchterless, Drumblade, Forglen, Forgue, Fyvie, Gamrie, Macduff, Monquhitter, and Turriff, which nine churches together had 2262 communicants in 1883.

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

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town and a parish"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Turriff ScoP       Aberdeenshire ScoCnty
Place: Turriff

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