Old County of Angus


A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2022.

It has taken much time and money to make the six-volumes of Groome's text freely accessible. Please help us continue and develop by making a donation. If only one out of every ten people who view this page gave £5 or $10, the project would be self-sustaining. Sadly less than one in thirty-thousand contribute, so please give what you can.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry Arrow

Links to the Historical Statistical Accounts of Scotland are also available:
(Click on the link to the right, scroll to the bottom of the page and click "Browse scanned pages")

1834-45: Forfar

Angus, an ancient district nearly or quite conterminous with Forfarshire. Some archæologists think that it got its name from Angus, a brother of Kenneth II., and recipient of title to proprietorship of the district, or to lordship over it, immediately after the conquest of the Picts: but others think that a hill a little to the eastward of Aberlemno church bore the name of Angus long previous to Kenneth II. 's time: had been a noted place of rendezvous on great public occasions: and gradually or eventually gave its name to the surrounding country. A finely diversified strath or valley, from 4 to 6 miles broad, and upwards of 30 miles long, extending from the western boundary of Kettins parish to the month of the North Esk river, is called the Howe or Hollow of Angus. An earldom of Angus was created in favour of the Douglas family, some time prior to 1329: came in that year into the line of the Dukes of Hamilton: and ranks now as the oldest one of the present duke's numerous peerages.

Forfarshire, a large maritime and agricultural county, nearly corresponding to the ancient district of Angus, occupies the south-eastern corner of the central peninsula of Scotland, having for its seaboard the Firth of Tay on the S, and the German Ocean on the E, and for its inland boundaries, on the NE Kincardineshire, on the N Aberdeenshire, and on the W Perthshire Its limits are, on the S, Dundee, 56° 27'; on the N, Mount Keen, 56° 58', N latitude: and on the E, the Ness, near Montrose, 2° 26'; on the W, at Blacklunans, 3° 24', longitude W of Greenwich. Eleventh in point of size of the counties of Scotland, it has an utmost length from N to S of 36 miles, an utmost width from E to W of 36½ Miles, and an area of 890 square miles or 569,840 acres, of which 6486 are foreshore and 3178 water. It is divided into four well-marked natural divisions -the shore district, consisting chiefly of sandy dunes and links, 37 miles long, with a breadth of from 3 to 8 miles; the range of the Sidlaw Hills, 22 miles long by 3 to 6 miles broad; Strathmore, the 'great valley,' otherwise called the Howe of Angus, 32 miles by 4 to 6 miles broad; and the hilly district or Braes of Angus, rising into the Grampian range, and measuring 24 miles by 5 to 9 miles broad.

The Grampian district forms the north-western division, and includes about two-fifths of the superficial area. Like the rest of the range, the Grampian mountains here run from SW to NE, forming the barrier between the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland; and exhibit ridge behind ridge, with many intervening valleys cut out by streams and torrents, till they form, at their water-line or highest ridge, the boundary line of the county. The portions of them included in Forfarshire are called the Benchinnin Mountains; and, viewed in the group, are far from possessing either the grandeur of the alpine districts of the West, or the picturesqueness and beauty of the highlands of the South. From the higher summits of the Grampians, a brilliant view is obtained, not only of Forfarshire and part of Perthshire, but of Fife, East Lothian, and the heights of Laminermuir.

The Strathmore district of Forfarshire is part of the great valley of that name, and stretches from the western boundary of the parish of Kettins, away north-eastward through the whole county, to the lower part of the North Esk. From its northern point south -westward it lies along the foot of the Forfarshire Grampians, till it forms the parish of Airlie; and it thenceforth, till the termination of the parish of Kettins, shares the continuation of Strathmore with Perthshire. Its surface is beautifully diversified by gentle eminences, fertile fields, plantations, villages, and gentlemen's seats. Small portions of it are covered with water during wet seasons, and, in other respects, have perhaps not received due attention from the cultivators of the soil.

The Sidlaw district of Forfarshire derives its distinctive features from the Sidlaw Hills. These are a continuation or offshoot of a range which runs parallel to Strathmore or the Grampians, from the Hill of Kinnoull near Perth, to the NE extremity of Kincardineshire. Seen from Fifeshire, the Sidlaws appear to rise at no great distance from the estuary of the Tay, and shut out from view the scenery of Strathmore and the lower Grampians. They culminate in Auchterhouse Hill at an altitude of 1399 feet above the level of the sea; and in some places are covered with stunted heath, while in others, they are cultivated to the top. The Sidlaw district terminates at Red Head, a promontory on the coast, in the parish of Inverkeilor, between Arbroath and Montrose. From some of the detached hills, respectively on the north-western and the south-eastern sides of the range, brilliant views are obtained, on the one hand, of the whole extent of Strathmore, and, on the other, of the scenery along the Firth of Tay and the German Ocean.

The maritime district of Forfarshire is, for a brief way, in the parish of Inverkeilor, identified with the Sidlaw district, but extends from the Tay and the limits of Liff and Lundie on the S to near the mouth of the North Esk on the N. In its southern part, it is at first of very considerable breadth; but it gradually narrows as it becomes pent up between the Sidlaw Hills and the ocean; and, overleaping the former, it thence stretches northward parallel to the Howe of Angus. This district is, with a few exceptions, fertile and highly cultivated. Excepting a few rounded jutting hills-some of which are designated by the Gaelic name of Dun-its surface slopes gently to the Firth of Tay on the S, and the German Ocean on the E. At Broughty Ferry, where the Firth of Tay is very much contracted, an extensive tract of links or sandy downs commences, and thence sweeps along a great part of the parishes of Monifieth and Barry. Two other sandy tracts of inconsiderable breadth stretch along the coast respectively between Panbride and Arbroath, and between the embouchures of the South Esk and the North Esk. In many places these downs evince, by extensive beds of marine shells, at heights ranging from 20 to 40 feet, that they were at one period covered with the sea. The maritime district is adorned with towns and villages, elegant villas and comfortable farm-steads, numerous plantations, and, in general, ample results of successful culture and busy enterprise.

The Tay, though it expands into an estuary 12 miles before touching the county, and cannot, while it washes its shores, be considered as a river, is greatly more valuable to Forfarshire than all its interior waters. Sandbanks in various places menace its navigation, but are rendered nearly innocuous by means of lighthouses and other appliances. From the mouth of the Tay to near Westhaven, the coast on the German Ocean is sandy; and thence north-eastward to near Arbroath, it cannot safely be approached on account of low, and, in many cases, sunken rocks. At a distance of 11¾ miles SE of Arbroath, the Bell Rock Lighthouse lifts its fine form above the bosom of the ocean. A mile north-eastward of Arbroath the coast becomes bold and rocky, breaking down in perpendicular precipices, and, in many places, perforated at the base with long deep caverns, whose floors are boisterously washed by the billows of the sea. The Red Head, a rocky promontory, 267 feet in almost sheer ascent, terminates this bold section of the coast, as it does the inland range of the Sidlaws. Lunan Bay now, with a small sweep inward, presents for nearly 3 miles a fine sandy shore, and offers a safe anchorage. The coast again becomes rocky and bold as far as to the mouth of the South Esk; and thence to the extremity of the county, it is low and sandy. At Broughty Ferry there is a rocky promontory on which stands Broughty Castle, and from this point to the boundary of Perth on the W the coast-line is flat and alluvial. Excepting a cantle cut out on the W by Perthshire, the county is nearly square, and lines intersecting the limit points named meet near Shielhill Bridge in the parish of Tannadice, where

'The waters of Prosen, Esk, and Carits
Meet at the birken bush of Inverquharity.'

The surface of Forfarshire is much diversified. Along the northern and western boundaries extends the Grampian range, having Glas Maol (3502) as the highest point, with upwards of sixty peaks exceeding 2000 feet. The Sidlaw Hills, on the S of the great glen, form a picturesque element in the scenery of the county. These are verdant hills, with a maximum height of 1399 feet at Auchterhouse Hill, and run down gradually to the eastward, where the range is cultivated to the top. Principal summits in the Grampian range are Cairn na Glasher (3484 feet), Cairn Bannoch (3314), Broad Cairn (3268), Tolmount (3143), Driesh (3105), Mount Keen (3077), Mayar (3043), Finalty (2954), Braidcairn (2907), Ben Tirran (2939), White Hill (2544), Carn Aighe (2824), Bonstie Ley (2868), Monamenach (2649), Mount Battock (2555), Black Hill (2469), Hill of Cat (2435), Cairn Inks (2483), East Cairn (2518), Mount Blair (2441), Cock Cairn (2387), West Knock (2300), the Hill of Wirren (2220), The Bulg (1986), Naked Tam (1607), and the White Caterthun (976). In the Sidlaw Hills, the Gallowhill (1242 feet), Gash (1141), Keillor (1088), and Hayston Hill (103 4) are notable. Dundee Law, overlooking the town, is 571 feet in height. In the Braes of Angus the county presents much that is grand and characteristic in hill scenery; and in the southern parts the finely-wooded and richly-cultivated landscape presents great beauty and attractiveness. The lochs of the county, as well as its rivers, are insignificant in view of the large district drained, the course of the streams being necessarily short, as from the position of the watershed the county receives no streams from other districts, while it gives off some that increase in bulk before augmenting the Tay, which reckons as a Perthshire river. Two mountain burns, the Lee and the Eunoch or Unich, unite in Lochlee parish, 1¾ mile above the lake of that name, which, measuring 9 by 21/3 furlongs, is 'a wild lake closed in by mountains.' The Lee, flowing from the loch, joins the Mark at Invermark, forming the North Esk, a stream which, after a course of 29 miles, falls into the German Ocean, and traces, during the last 15 miles of its course, the boundary between Forfar and Kincardine. Its principal affluent in the county is West Water, rising in Lethnot parish, and joining the Esk at Stracathro. The South Esk, rising in Clova, has a course of 48¾ miles, and runs into Montrose Basin. In its upper course it is a mountain stream, but, after receiving its principal tributaries, it runs due E through Strathmore as a quiet lowland river. Parallel with its upper course is Glen Prosen, whence the South Esk receives Prosen Water. The other main affluents are the Carity, the Noran, the Lemno, and the Pow. Further is the beautiful valley of Glen Isla, where the Isla has its rise. One-third of the total course of this stream is in Perthshire, where it joins the Tay, after receiving the waters of many small streams. On the Isla is a waterfall of 80 feet, the 'Reeky Linn,' so called from the cloud of spray constantly thrown up; and further down are the Slugs of Auchrannie, a dark channel where the river runs between steep rocks. One affluent of the Isla, the Dean, issues from Forfar Loch; and one of the Deau's tributaries, the Arity, presents the peculiarity of rising within 7 miles of the mouth of the Tay, and running a course of 70 miles before it falls into the German Ocean. The smaller streams flowing direct to the sea embrace the Lunan, running into the bay of that name, the Brothock, the Elliot, the Dighty, rising in the Lochs of Lundie and receiving the Fithie, all of which reach the ocean between Arbroath and Broughty Ferry. The lochs and streams of Forfarshire afford excellent sport for the angler. The North Esk yields salmon, sea-trout, and common trout, the net fishings being very valuable, as many as 700 or 8-0 salmon being taken on the first day of the season. The South Esk and its tributaries yield trout, while salmon are also plentiful from Brechin downwards, but the latter are strictly preserved. The Isla, both in its Forfarshire and its Perthshire sections, receives a high character from Mr Watson Lyall in his Sportsman's Guide; salmon penetrate to the Slugs of Auchrannie, and up to this point there are heavy pike and trout of very fine quality. Above the Reekie Linn the stream yields first-rate sport. Loch Wharral, in the same locality, is abundant in good small trout. Loch Brandy, situated amidst wild and beautiful scenery, 2070 feet above sea-level, is uncertain, but frequently gives good sport. Loch Esk, in Clova, affords large but shy trout. Dun's Dish, an artificial loch near Bridge of Dun, and private property, yields perch. Forfar Loch is famous for large pike and perch, the former running to 30 lbs. on occasion. Loch Lee, the largest in the county, yields trout of two kinds and char in abundance. The Lochs of Lundie, in the parish of Lundie, belong to Lord Camperdown, and yield perch and pike. The reservoirs of Monikie have been stocked with Loch Leven and other trout, and yield fair sport. Lock Rescobie yields perch, pike, and eels, and is open to the public. The county contains several notable deer forests, including those of Clova, Caanlochan, Bachnagairn, and Invermark. In the latter the Mark stream flows, and at the 'Queen's Well,' formerly the White Well, and now named in commemoration of the fact of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort having rested and lunched here in Sept. 1861 in travelling from Balmoral to Invermark Lodge, the Earl of Dalhousik kas erected a handsome monument of three open crossed arches resembling a Scottish crown. It bears an inscription in imitation of that in Marmion-

'Rest, weary traveller, on this lonely green,
And drink and pray for Scotland's Queen.'

The Queen describes the scene as very grand and wild, the 'Ladder Burn,' running down a steep and winding path, as 'very fine and very striking.'

Geology.—The county of Forfar is divided into two distinct geological areas by a line drawn from Lintrathen Loch NE by Cortachy Castle to near Edzell. The tract lying to the W of this line is occupied by metamorphosed Silurian strata ; while to the E, the Old Red Sandstone formation stretches across Strathmore and the chain of the Sidlaws to the sea coast.

The Silurian rocks occurring along the margin of the Old Red Sandstone area are comparatively unaltered, consisting mainly of grey and green clay slates with occasional pebbly grits. These beds are inclined to the NW, but as we ascend the valleys of the Isla, the Prosen, and South Esk, they are thrown into a great synclinal fold, and they re-appear in a highly altered form with a SE dip. In their metamorphosed condition they consist of mica schists and gneiss, with bands of pebbly quartzite which are well displayed on the Braes of Angus. Beyond the area occupied by these stratified rocks, a great mass of granite stretches from Cairn Bannoch to Mount Battock along the confines of Forfarshire and Aberdeenshire.

The Old Red Sandstone of Forfarshire has long been celebrated for the fishes and eurypterids found in the shales and flagstones. The recent discovery of myriapods in the same strata has tended to increase the interest in the history of this formation as developed in the county. The researches of Lyell, Woodward, Lankester, Powrie, Page, Mitchell, and others, have amply revealed the nature of the organisms which flourished during that ancient period. The fossils occur on two distinct horizons, the position of which has now been accurately defined. But apart from the interesting series of organic remains, this formation claims attention on account of its remarkable development in Forfarshire and Kincardineshire. The total thickness of the Lower Old Red Sandstone in these two counties cannot be less than 20, 000 feet, and yet neither the top nor the base of the series is visible. This vast series was deposited on the bed of an inland sheet of water to which the name of Lake Caledonia has been applied by Professor A. Geikie. The northern margin of that ancient lake was defined by the Grampian chain, and even during the deposition of the highest members of the series, a portion of that tableland must have remained above the water. One of the most interesting phases of that period was the display of volcanic activity which gave rise to great sheets of lavas and ashes, the igneous materials being regularly interbedded with the sedimentary strata. The volcanic series attains its greatest development in Perthshire, as will be shown in the description of the geology of that county.

The geological structure of the area occupied by the Lower Old Red Sandstone of Forfarshire is comparatively simple. Two great flexures, which can be traced far into Perthshire on the one side, and into Kincardineshire on the other, cross the county in a S W and NE direction. In Strathmore, the strata form a synclinal trough, the axis of which extends from the mouth of the burn of Alyth to Stracathro, and in the centre of this basin the highest beds in the county are exposed. Again the chain of the Sidlaws coincides with a great anticlinal fold which brings to the surface the oldest members of this formation in the county. It ought to be remembered, however, that in the Lower Old Red Sandstone of Perthshire we find strata which occupy a higher horizon. A line drawn from the neighbourhood of Longforgan NE to Montrose, marks the crest of the arch referred to, from which the strata dip in opposite directions at angles varying from 100 to 150. The oldest beds, consisting of brown and grey sandstones, flagstones, and shales, are exposed along the crest of the anticline between Longforgan and Leysmills E of Friockheim. The well-known Arbroath paving stones belong to this horizon, but perhaps the most conspicuous member of this sub-division is a thin band of shale from 1 to 3 feet thick forming the lower fish bed. It can be traced along the NW side of the axial fold from Balruddery Den to Tealing, and on the SE side from Duntrune by Carmyllie to Leysmills. At all these localities it has yielded fish remains, huge eurypterids, myriapods, and fragments of land plants. The strata just described are succeeded on both sides of the arch by the members of the volcanic series consisting of thick sheets of diabase-porphyrite which are interbedded with sandstones, flags, and thin bands of conglomerate. These ancient lavas are the northern prolongations of the volcanic series of the Ochils. Though they form prominent ridges in the Sidlaws, their thickness is insignificant when compared with their development in the former range.

The volcanic series is conformably overlaid along the NW side of the arch by sandstones and conglomerates containing an important band of shales and a bed of cornstone. This band of shales which constitutes the Upper or Turin fish bed has been traced from Turin Hill NE by Farnell to Canterland in Kincardineshire- a distance of 14 miles. Similar organic remains to those already described have been obtained from this bed at these three localities. The members of this subdivision are inclined to the NW at angles varying from 100 to 150, and this dip continues till the centre of the basin is reached near Tannadice, where the highest beds in the county are exposed, consisting of red sandy marls. Though the latter resemble some of the strata belonging to the Upper Old Red Sandstone, they are in reality only a conformable portion of the lower division. At Coranside, N of Tannadice, they occupy a strip of ground about 2 miles broad, but when followed to the NE, the basin gradually widens till at the county boundary the sandy marls cover an area about 3 miles in breadth. They ' tail off, ' however, near Tannadice, and the underlying sandstones and conglomerates occupy the centre of the syncline till we pass westwards to Alyth, where the sandy marls re-appear and are well developed in the Tay at Stanley.

Along the northern margin of the trough the strata rise rapidly to the surface. They are inclined at high angles owing to the great fault which runs along the flanks of the Grampians from Stonehaven to the Firth of Clyde. Throughout a great part of its course this dislocation throws the Old Red Sandstone against the crystalline rocks of the Highlands, but between Cortachy in Forfarshire and Crieff in Perthshire, it traverses the Old Red Sandstone area. In the latter case it brings different members of this formation against each other. At various localities between Cortachy and the county boundary near Edzell, the position of the fault is admirably defined. The coarse conglomerates and sandstones underlying the red sandy marls are tilted against the Silurian clay slates at angles varying from 600 to 800. The same high angle is observable on the E side of the dislocation where it traverses the Old Red Sandstone W of Cortachy, particularly in the river Isla at Airlie Castle. On the W side of the fault between Cortachy and the Isla and onwards to the Tay the volcanic series reappears dipping to the SE at comparatively low angles. The members of this series rest unconformably on the Silurian rocks, but differ considerably in character from their representatives in the Sidlaws and the Ochils. Instead of great sheets of porphyrite and tuffs we have massive trappean conglomerates with thin beds of lava. This difference is readily accounted for by their proximity to the margin of the ancient lake. Even the strata, which immediately underlie the red sandy marls W of Tannadice and Stracathro, are more markedly conglomeratic than the beds occupying the same horizon on the E side of the trough.

The following list comprises the fossils obtained from the two fish beds of Forfarshire:-(Fishes), Acanthodes Mitchelli, Diplacanthus gracilis, Euthacanthus M'Nicoli, E. gracilis, E. elegans, E. grandis, E. curtus, Parexus incurvus, P. falcatus, Climatius reticulatus, C. uncinatus, C. scutiger, Cephalopterus Pagei, Pteraspis Mitchelli, Eucephalaspis Lyellii, E. Powrei, E. Pagei, E. asper, Scaphaspis Loydii. (Eurypterids), Pterygotus Anglicus, P. minor, Stylonurus Powrei, S. Scoticus, S. ensiformis, Eurypterus Brewsteri, E. pygmaeus. (Myriapods), Kampecaris Forfarensis, Archidesmus M'Nicoli. The occurrence of myriapods in these beds has only recently been proved. The genus Kampecaris or grub shrimp, which was discovered by the late Dr Page in the Forfarshire flagstones, and which could not be accurately described owing to the imperfect preservation of the fossils, was regarded by him as probably a small phyllopod or the larval form of an isopod crustacean. From specimens recently obtained, Mr B. N. Peach has pointed out that Kampecaris comprises two genera. of myriapods which differ from all other forms in having their body segments free, and possessing only one pair of walking limbs. These are the oldest known airbreathers, and must have flourished when Upper Silurian forms were still in existence.

To the N of Dundee the axial beds are traversed by a series of intrusive dolerites which have altered the strata in immediate contact with them. Dundee Law is probably the site of an old ' neck ' from which some of the contemporaneous volcanic rocks were probably discharged.

The only patch of Upper Old Red Sandstone in the county occurs on the shore about 1 mile N of Arbroath. The strata cover about ½ mile of the coast-line at Cardingheugh Bay, and on the S side of the bay they rest unconformably on the members of the lower division, while to the N they are brought into conjunction with each other by a fault. They consist of soft honeycombed red sandstones and breccias which as yet have proved unfossiliferous.

During the glacial period the ice sheet moved down the glens of the Isla, the Prosen, and South Esk, crossing Strathmore and surmounting the Sidlaws in its march towards the sea. The general trend of the iceflow was SE though its course was considerably deflected by the Sidlaws. In order to override this barrier the ice sheet must at least have been upwards of 1500 feet thick. The boulder clay which accumulated underneath the ice is well developed throughout the county. To the E of the Old Red Sandstone boundary, boulders of various metamorphic rocks from the Grampians are associated with Old Red conglomerates, sandstones, flagstones, and volcanic rocks in this deposit. This feature is observable not only in the sections throughout Strathmore, but even on the SE slopes of the Sidlaws. The latter fact clearly indicates that the moraine profonde must have been transported across the chain and deposited in the lee of the hills. But these foreign blocks are likewise met with, perched on the slopes and tops of various eminences in the Sidlaws, as for instance on the hills between Lunnelly Den and Lundie at a height of 1000 feet, and on the summit of Craigowl at a height of 1500 feet. The widespread sheets of clay, sand, and gravel, and the long ridges of the same materials in Strathmore were probably formed by the vast torrents of water caused by the melting of the retreating glaciers. As the glaciers shrunk back into the glens they deposited moraines of which the great transverse barrier at Glenairn in the valley of South Esk is a remarkable example. An interesting description of this great terminal moraine has been given by Sir Charles Lyell. When seen from the S side it resembles an immense rampart about 200 feet high athwart the valley. Its breadth from N to S is about ½ mile, and on the E side it has been denuded by the Esk for a space of 300 yards. The lower portion of this rampart, from 50 to 80 feet thick, consists of unstratified mud charged with boulders, while the upper portion, from 50 to 100 feet thick, is composed of finely stratified materials. The alluvial flat above the barrier represents the site of an ancient loch which was eventually drained by the water cutting a channel through the morainic deposits. The 100, 50, and 25 feet raised beaches are represented at various points on the coast. The lowest of them may be traced continuously from Broughty Ferry to Arbroath, swelling out into a broad plain to the S of Barry and Carnoustie, where it is covered in great part by sand dunes. The stratified sands and gravels composing this terrace contain shells identical with those now living.

The soils of Forfarshire may be classified into primary and secondary, or those formed by disintegration of native rocks, an d those deposited from a distance by running water; and, in a general view, they are mostly of a red or reddish colour, frequently inclining to brown, dark brown, or black. The primary soils, on the uplands of the Grampian district, are generally moorish and thin, resting on whitish retentive clay, and frequently perforated by rocks. In other districts with gravelly bottoms the soil is generally thin, mossy, and encumbered with loose stones; while those districts with sandstone bottoms are chiefly of a tenacious clay, very unfertile, yet capable of being so worked as to produce excellent wheat. On clayey or tilly bottoms the soil is a strong clay, redder and decidedly better than those named, while those parts with trap rock below are generally friable and very fertile clays; but often on the northern declivity, and among the hollows of the Sidlaw Hills, too shallow to admit the plough. The secondary soils, in the glens of the Grampian district, are generally so sandy as to be loose and friable, or so strong as to be practically unmanageable. In the other districts these soils are often so intermixed with the primary soils that they can hardly be distinguished, yet occurring distinctively along the banks of streams, or in old beds of lakes and river-expansions, and frequently a considerable way up the slopes adjacent to these. In the Strathmore district, the low tracts range in character from sand, through different kinds of gravel, to trap débris, vegetable mould, and carse clay, and are comparatively unfertile. In hollows these soils have been saturated with moisture, and converted into fens or mosses. Around Montrose Basin are patches of a carse clay, similar to that of the carses of Gowrie and Falkirk. In the whole of Scotland the percentage of cultivated area is only 24.2; in Forfarshire it is 44.4, a percentage higher than that of twentyone, and lower than that of ten, other Scottish counties. Less than one twenty-third of the whole of Scotland is under woods; in Forfarshire the proportion is more than one-nineteenth, viz., 30, 287 acres. The finest of its trees are noticed under Kinnaird, Gray, and Panmure.

Agriculture continued long in Forfarshire to be as inert or rude as in most other parts of Scotland, but it shared early in the activity of the new agricultural era, and acquired vigour from the efforts of Dempster of Dunnichen and other extensive landowners, and from the Lunan, the Strathmore, the Angus and Mearns, and Angus and Perthshire, and the Eastern Forfarshire Agricultural Associations. For many years prior to 1872, it exhibited an energy, a skill, and a success little inferior to those of the Lothians. As indicating the progress of agriculture in Forfarshire in recent times, the following interesting summary is quoted from Mr James Macdonald's prize paper on Forfar and Kincardine, published in the Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society, fourth series, vol. xiii., 1881:-

'From the Rev. Mr Rodger's report on Forfarshire, drawn up in 1794, it appears that wheat was then cultivated in every parish in the lower part of the county; that Angus oats, still famous, had thus a wide reputation; that some grasses were used on almost every farm; that turnips were freely grown; and that potatoes were cultivated with great success, the yield in some instances being as high as from 50 to 60 bolls of 16 stones per acre. The number of cattle was estimated at 36, 499- a small breed, ranging in weight from 16 to 20 stones avoirdupois, occupying the higher ground, and a larger breed, weighing from 40 to 70 stones, the lower parts. Sheep numbered 53, 970, and were mostly of the blackfaced, a few being of the ancient dun or white-faced kind, and others of mixed breeding. On some of the better managed farms, and around proprietors' residences, there was a good deal of enclosed land, mostly under pasture. Farm implements were still primitive, but improvements were fast being introduced. The clumsy old Scotch plough, modernised by metal boards, was still in use, but improved ploughs, chiefly of Small's make, were speedily superseding it. It was not uncommon to see four horses attached to a plough; and oxen were employed on many farms. Ploughmen's wages without board averaged about 1s. 3d. per day, There was then a large extent of wood in the county. and early in the present century the area was greatly increased by Lord Airlie, Sir James Carnegie, the Strathmore family, and others. The Rev. Mr Headrick states the number and rental of the farms in 1813 as follows- viz., under £20 of annual value, 1574 farms; £20 and under £50, 565; £50 and under £100, 682; £100 and under £300, 315; above £300, 86; total, 3222. ' The spirit of improvement aroused in the last century has never been allowed to lie dormant. True, during the last 25 years a smaller extent of land has been reclaimed than during either the last 25 years of the 18th century or the first 25 of the present, but that has not been due to any flagging in the spirit of improvement, but simply to the fact that only a limited area of suitable land remained for the proprietors and tenants of the past 25 years to bring under cultivation. There has been less done lately simply because there has been less to do. No reliable data exist upon which to estimate the extent of land reclaimed during the first half of the present century. The Rev. Mr Headrick estimated the arable land in Forfarshire in 1813 at 340, 643 acres, but it is clear that that far exceeded the actual extent; for the area at present under all kinds of crops-bere, fallow, and grass-falls short of it by nearly 90, 000 acres.

'Confining ourselves to the last 25 years, we find that there has been a substantial increase in the extent of arable land. The following table affords a pretty correct indication: arable area in 1854, 219,721 acres; in 1870, 238,009; in 1880, 253, 373. The percentage of the arable area in Forfarshire under cultivation in 1870 was 41.8, now it is 44.5. This increase, equal to 1246 acres a year, must be regarded as highly creditable, especially when it is considered that, as previously stated, agricultural improvement had been carried to a great length long before the period to which the above table refers, so far, indeed, as to leave comparatively little to be done. The main portion of the new land lies in the Braes of Angus along the foot of the Grampians, but there is also a fair proportion on the Sidlaw range.

'The reclamation of land, however, has not constituted the whole of the agricultural improvements in the county during the last 25 years. Indeed, it is doubtful if it has not in outlay been far exceeded by the improvement in farm buildings, draining, fencing, roadmaking, and other accessories which tend to develop the resources of the soil. There has been a great deal done in the improvement of farm buildings, and these are now, on the whole, fully abreast of the times. In several parts of Forfarshire, re-draining might be carried out with advantage; but still, since 1854, a great improvement has been effected in the condition of the land in this respect. In the wheat and potato districts there is yet a large stretch of open land, but in the parts where the pasturing of live-stock holds a prominent place in the economy of the farm, a great extent of fencing, mostly wire and stone dykes, has been erected within the last 25 or 30 years. In service or farm roads, too, as well as in the county roads, there has been considerable improvement, while not a little has been done in the way of straightening watercourses, squaring fields, draining small pieces of lake or swamp, clearing the land of stones, and in other small but useful works. '

The areas under various crops are given in the following table:—

Grain Crops—Acres.

Year. Wheat. Barley. Oats. Total.
1854, . . 12,795 25,222 50,995 89,012
1870, . . 13,705 26,416 500,623 90,744
1875, . . 12,573 30,096 51,077 93,736
1881, . . 10,038 31,479 51,582 93,099

Grass, Root Crops, &c.—Acres

Year. Hay, Grass, and Permanent Pasture. Turnips. Potatoes.
1854, . . 77,349 31,198 12,529
1870, . . 73,872 32,881 16,723
1875, . . 74,959 34,782 14,607
1881, . . 80,338 33,917 18,650

The agricultural live-stock in the country is shown in The following table:—

Year. Cattle. Horses. Sheep. Pigs. Total
1854, . 48,003 9,306 105,028 8,442 170,779
1870, . 44,647 9,323 119,841 6,516 180,327
1875, . 50,591 9,988 121,973 6,918 189,470
1881, . 45,805 10,358 119,386 4,964 180,513

The polled Angus breed of cattle has a history of peculiar interest, and the herds existing in the county. are valuable and important. From Mr Macdonald's report on the agriculture of the county, we learn that last century the excellent beef producing qualities of the herd had been discovered, and that several polled herds were formed. The credit of being the first to commence the systematic improvement of the breed belongs to Mr Hugh Watson, Keillor, an intimate friend of Sir Walter Scott, and associated with Booth, Wetherell, and other noted improvers of the cattle breeds of the kingdom. His herd was founded in 1808, and consisted of 6 cows and a bull left him by his father, and of 10 of the best heifers and the best bull he could find at Trinity Muir Fair. Although no complete record exists of Mr Watson's system, his theory was to ' put the best to the best regardless of affinity or blood.' His herd was dispersed in 1860. The entrance of rinderpest dealt a heavy blow to the cultivation of breeding herds, but there has been a revival, and the county contains several well-known herds, including that at Mains of Kelly, founded in 1810. The breeding of shorthorns was long carried on by Mr Lyall at Kincraig, near Brechin, and afterwards at Old Montrose, but this herd, nearly extinguished by rinderpest in 1865, was finally dispersed in 1874. Mr Arkley of Ethiebeaton and other shorthorn breeders have small herds in the county.

The breed of black cattle, previous to the introduction of turnips and sown grasses, was small, and the cattle were yoked in the plough in teams. The breed still remains smaller in the remote than in the more cultivated districts, but, as stated by Mr Macdonald, it has been improved throughout most of the county by crossings and importations, so as to correspond in progress with the progress in the arts of tillage. The distinction between the best feeding and the best milking breed, so essential to improvement in matters of the dairy, is much less maintained or observed than in Ayrshire and other dairy districts. The original breed of sheep was the small white-faced sheep, believed to have been the aboriginal breed of Britain; but, in the early part of the present century, it was almost wholly superseded by the black-faced sheep, brought principally from Peeblesshire. Goats were at one time kept in the mountainous districts, but on account of the injury they did to plantations they were extirpated in the latter part of last century.

The manufacture of coarse fabrics from flax, jute, and hemp, is carried on to a vast extent in Forfarshire, and comprises considerably more than half of the entire linen trade of Scotland. The spinning of yarn in large mills, and the working of canvas, broad sheetings, bagging, and other heavy fabrics in factories, are constructed on a vast scale in the large towns; and the weaving of osnaburghs, dowlas, and common sheetings employs an enormous number of handlooms in the smaller towns and villages. Mr A. J. Warden gives the number of linen factories, in Sept. 1867, as 72 in Dundee, 18 in Arbroath and its neighbourhood, 6 in Montrose and its neighbourhood, 6 in Forfar, 4 in Brechin, and 2 in Carnoustie-altogether 108; and they had 278,564 spindles, 11,329 power-looms, and 7715 of nominal horse-power, and employed 46,571 persons. The spinning, weaving, and bleaching of linen are carried on in various other quarters, but chiefly for manufacturers in these towns. Manufactures of leather, gloves, soap, candles, hand cards, machinery, confectionery, and other articles also are carried on in considerable magnitude, but only or chiefly in the large towns, principally Dundee, Arbroath, and Montrose, and are noticed in our articles on these places. The railways of the county embrace the Dundee and Perth, which runs a few miles along the coast to Dundee; the Dundee and Arbroath; the North British, Montrose, and Arbroath, along the coast, to Montrose; the Montrose and Bervie, going along the coast into Kincardineshire; the Tay Bridge connections at Dundee; and the connections and branches to Forfar, Brechin, Kirriemuir, etc. (See Caledonian Railway and North British Railway.)

Forfarshire, with a constituency of 3642 in 1882, returns one member to parliament, always a Liberal since 1837, there having been only one contested election (in 1872) during all that period, and even then both candidates were Liberals. Dundee returns two members; and Montrose, Arbroath, Brechin, and Forfar, forming with Bervie the Montrose Burghs, return one. Other towns are Kirriemuir, Lochee, Broughty Ferry, Carnoustie, and part of Coupar-Angus; and the principal villages are Auchmithie, Barnhill, Claverhouse, Downfield, Edzell, Ferryden, Friockheim, Glamis, Hillside, Letham, Monifieth, Newtyle, and Northmuir. Mansions, all noticed separately, are Airlie Castle, Cortachy Castle, Ethie Castle, Glamis Castle, Kinnaird Castle, Brechin Castle, Auldbar Castle, Panmure House, Invermark Lodge, Caraldston Castle, Rossie, Duntrune, Ochterlony, Hospitalfield, Stracathro, Bandirran, Lindertis, Linlathen, Baldovan, Invergowrie, Baldowie, etc. A great proportion of the landed property of the county at the beginning of the 18th century was held by the Lyons, the Maules, the Douglases, the Ogilvies, the Carnegies, and a few other ancient families; but much of the large estates, after the introduction of manufactures and trade, underwent subdivision, and passed into other hands. Not one-third of 40 barons, recorded by Edward in 1676 as proprietors in the county, are Now represented by their descendants, and a portion of even the few ancient families who continue to be proprietors are now non-resident. So rapidly has landed property in many parishes passed from hand to hand, that the average term of possession by one family does not exceed 40 years. According to Miscellaneous Statistics of the United Kingdom (1879), 555,994 acres, with a total gross estimated rental of £1,243,109, were divided among 9339 proprietors, one holding 136,602 acres (rental £55,602), one 65,059 (£21,664), two together 44, 418 (£25,327), two 27,334 (£22, 456), fourteen 90,307 (£72, 096), twenty-five 83, 744 (£96,566), thirty 41,695 (£64,222), forty-two 29,254 (£156,731), one hundred and four 28,148 (£76,719), etc.

The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant, a vice-lieutenant, 31 deputy-lieutenants, and 231 justices of the peace. It forms a sheriffdom, with resident sheriffssubstitute at Dundee and Forfar, courts being held at the former town on Wednesday and Friday, and at the latter on Thursday, throughout the session. A sheriff small-debt court is also held at Forfar on Thursday, and at Dundee on Tuesday. Small debt courts are held at Montrose on the third Friday, at Arbroath on the third Wednesday, and at Kirriemuir on the third Monday, of January and every alternate month. There is a burgh police force in Arbroath (18 men), Brechin (6), Dundee (161), Forfar (9), Kirriemuir (2), and Montrose (12); the remaining police in the county comprise 43 men, under a chief constable, whose yearly pay is £300. In 1880 the number of persons in the county and in the six burghs tried at the instance of the police was 479 and 6461; convicted, 449 and 6242; committed for trial, 42 and 473; not dealt with, 189 and 1970. The registration county, divided into 54 registration districts, had 268, 653 inhabitants in 1881. The number of registered poor in the year ending 14 May 1881 was 5550; of dependants on these, 2787; of casual poor, 1612; of dependants on these, 1194. The receipts for the poor in that year were £53,712, 17s. 7½d.; and the expenditure was £54, 880, 7s. 3d. The number of pauper lunatics was 789, their cost of maintenance being £15,348, 3s. 11d. The percentage of illegitimate births was 11.6 in 1871, 10 in 1877, and 9.9 in 1880. Although eleventh in size of the thirty-three Scotch counties, Forfarshire ranks as sixth, or next to Fife, in respect of rental roll, its valuation, exclusive of railways and burghs, being (1856) £370,519, (1866) £462,138, (1876) £554, 407, (1882) £590,382, 1s. 6d., plus £101,194 for railways and £823,375, 6s. 11d. for the five parliamentary burghs. Total (1882) £1, 514,951, 8s. 5d. In point of population it stands fourth, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Lanark shires alone surpassing it. Pop. (1801) 99,053, (1811) 107,187, (1821), 113, 355, (1831) 139,606, (1841) 170, 453, (1851) 191,264, (1861) 204,425, (1871) 237, 567, (1881) 266,360, of whom 120,091 were males, and 146,269 females. In 1881 the number of persons to each square mile was 304; and the dwellers in the nine towns numbered 214,760, in the thirteen villages 8261, and in the rural districts 43, 339, the corresponding figures for 1871 being 186,185, 7130, and 44,252. Houses (1881) 52,688 inhabited, 3236 vacant, 115 building.

The county is divided into 56 civil parishes, of which 6 are partly situated in other counties. Edzell has a small piece in Kincardineshire; Alyth, Caputh, and Coupar-Angus are principally in Perthshire; and portions of Liff and Benvie, Lundie and Fowlis, are in the latter county. There are 25 quoad sacra parishes, and these with the civil go to make up the presbyteries of Forfar, Brechin, and Arbroath, and partly to form those of Dundee and Meigle-all of them included in the synod of Angus and Mearns. The Free Church has similar divisions, with 62 charges within Forfarshire; and the United Presbyterian Church, in its presbyteries of Arbroath and Dundee, has 27 Forfarshire charges. The Scottish Episcopal Church has 13 churches; the Roman Catholic, 6; and other places of worship are 2 English Episcopal, 7 Evangelical Union, 11 Congregational, 4 Wesleyan, 6 Baptist, 1 Unitarian, and 2 United Original Seceders. In the year ending Sept. 1881 there were 195 schools (147 public), which, with accommodation for 38,411 children, had 36,244 on the rolls, and an average attendance of 26,901. Their staff consisted of 313 certificated, 55 assistant, and 289 pupil teachers.

The territory now constituting Forfarshire belonged to the Caledonian tribe of the Vernicomes. It formed, till the time of Kenneth II., a part of Southern Pictavia; and from 935 and earlier to 1242 was included in the old Celtic mormaership or earldom of Angus. Its civil history possesses hardly a distinctive feature; and, excepting a few facts which properly belong to the history of its principal towns, Brechin, Arbroath, Dundee, Forfar, and Montrose, and to its castles, as Finhaven, Edzell, and Airlie, it is blended in the general history of the counties N of the Forth. The chief immigrant barons, at the period of the Anglo-Saxon colonisation, whose descendants continued to figure most conspicuously in the county, were the Lyons, the Maules, and the Carnegies. Sir John Lyon, a gentleman of Norman extraction, having married a daughter of King Robert II., obtained, among other grants, the castle and lands of Glamis, and was the founder of the noble family of Barons Glamis, Tannadice, Sidlaw, and Strathdighty, and Earls of Strathmore. Guarin de Maule accompanied William the Conqueror from Normandy to England; Robert de Maule, a son of Guarin, followed Earl David, afterwards King David, into Scotland; Roger, the second son of that Robert, married the heiress of William de Valonis, Lord of Panmure and chamberlain of Scotland in the time of Alexander II.; and from them sprang the Maules, afterwards Earls of Panmure, and the FoxMaule-Ramsays, now Barons Panmure and Earls of Dalhousie. The Carnegies ramified into several branches, two of which became respectively Earls of Southesk and Earls of Northesk.

Remains of vitrified forts are found on Finhaven Hill in Oathlaw parish, on Drumsturdy Moor in Monifieth parish, and on Dundee Law. Ancient hill forts are traceable on White Caterthun and Brown Caterthun in Menmuir parish, at Denoon Law, 2½ miles SW of Glamis, and on Dunnichen Hill, Dumbarrow Hill, Carbuddo Hill, Lower Hill, and several other eminences. In many instances these forts are indicated only by heaps of loose stones. Cairns and ancient standing stones are in various places, particularly in Aberlemno and Monikie parishes. Vestiges of Roman camps are at Haerfaulds in Lour Moor, at a part in Forfar Moor about ½ mile NE of Forfar town, and at War Dykes or Black Dikes, 2¾ miles N of Brechin. At Dunnichen the revolted Picts defeated and slew Ecgfrid, the Northumbrian king, recovering thus their independence, 20 May 685. Carved stones at Glamis are believed to refer to the drowning of the murderers of Malcolm II., who are said to have perished by falling through the ice on Forfar Loch. In Rescobie Castle, Donald Bane, brother to Malcolm Ceannmor, was tortured by his nephew Edgar, and died in 1097, his enemy dying ten years later. Queen Mary, in her journey N, visited the abbey at Coupar-Angus and the castle of Edzell. Great mediæval castles were at Forfar and Dundee, but have long been extinct; and other mediæval castles, still represented by considerable remains, in various conditions of conservation or of ruin, are Broughty Castle at Broughty Ferry, Red Castle at the head of Lunan Bay, Airlie Castle in Airlie parish, Finhaven Castle in Oathlaw parish, Invermark Castle and Edzell Castle in Glenesk, Kelly Castle near Arbroath, and Affleck Castle in Monikie parish. A round tower, similar to the famous round towers of Ireland, and the only one in Scotland except one at Abernethy, is at Brechin. Interesting ancient ecclesiastical edifices, or ruins of them, are the parish church or quondam cathedral of Brechin, the tower of the town churches of Dundee, the abbey of Arbroath, the Priory of Restenneth, and the churches of Kettins and Fowlis. Several monastic edifices, of inferior note to Arbroath Abbey, were in Dundee, Montrose, Brechin, and other places, but have in most instances entirely disappeared. See Andrew Jervise's Memorials of Angus and Mearns (Edinb. 1861), and Land of the Lindsays (Edinb. 1853); William Marshall's Historic Scenes in Forfarshire (Edinb. 1875); J. C. Guthrie's Vale of Strathmore (Edinb. 1875); T. Lawson's Report on the Past and Present Agriculture of Forfarshire (Edinb. 1881); James Macdonald's ' Agriculture of the County of Forfar ' in Trans. of the Highl. and Ag. Soc. (1881); Alex. J. Warden's Angus or Forfarshire, the Land and people 4 vols., Dundee, 1880-83); and works referred to under Arbroath, Brechin, Coupar-Angus, Dundee, and Maryton.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better