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Parish of Nigg

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.

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1791-99: Nigg
1834-45: Nigg

Nigg (Gael. `a nook'), a parish in the extreme NE of Kincardineshire. It is bounded N by the Dee and by Aberdeen Bay, E by the North Sea, on the S and W by Banchory-Devenick parish, and NW by the Dee which separates it from Aberdeenshire. The boundaries are thus natural on all sides except the S and W. The greatest length, from the Dee at Torry Point on the N to the point where the boundary reaches the sea on the S, is 4 miles; the greatest breadth, from the Dee at Polldown Mills on the W to the sea-coast on the E, is 2 ½ miles; and the area is 4606.584 acres, including 132.434 of foreshore and 42.283 of water. From the N and NW the ground slopes upwards to a height of 267 feet on the road W of Loirston Loch, and 275 on the road E of it. Along the coast on the E there are cliffs of from 60 to 80 feet high. The portions to the NNW and along the -E are cultivated, but throughout the S there is a- barren ridge covered with stony moss and heath. About half the parish is arable or under wood, and the soil of the cultivated portions varies from good black loam to clay, the former being the more plentiful. The underlying rock- is mostly granite. The drainage is effected by a number of small rills flowing either to the. Dee or to the sea. In the SW of the parish is Loirston Loch (2 by 1 furl.), covering about 20 acres. The northern portion of the parish is formed by the promontory of Girdleness with portions of the works of Aberdeen Harbour, Girdleness Lighthouse, and Torry Point battery. The two former are noticed in connection with Aberdeen and Girdleness. The latter was erected in. 1831-33 to protect the mouth of the Dee. To the N of Girdleness Lighthouse is Greyhope Bay, which was, in 1813, the scene of the wreck of the whaler Oscar. To the S of the lighthouse is Nigg Bay, 5/8 mile wide across the mouth and 3/8 mile deep. It has also the names of Fiacre, Fittack, or Sandy Bay. Further S the coast is rocky and irregular, with long narrow creeks; and at several places there are caves, though none of them are of any great size. To the W of the Bay of Nigg is the old church of St Fittack, with a belfry bearing date 17 04. The main building is older, but only the ruined and roofless walls now remain. Some distance S of the church, a spring dedicated to St Fittack was long held in high veneration, and was the scene of superstitious observances which, in the early part of the 17th century, seem to have caused much tribulation of spirit to the kirk-session of Aberdeen. Frequent ordinances forbid the inhabitants to resort to it, and in 1630 `Margrat Davidson, spous to Andro Adam, wes adjudget in ane unlaw of fyve poundis to be payed to the collector for directing hir nowriss with hir bairne to Sanct Fiackres well, and weshing the bairne tharin for recovirie of hir health; and the said Margrat and her nowriss were ordanit to acknowledge thair offence before the session for thair fault, and for leaveing ane offering in the well. The said day it wes ordanit be the haill session in ane voce That quhatsumever inhabitar within this burgh beis fund going to St Fiackres well in ane superstitious maner for seiking health to thameselffis or bairnes, shall be censured in penaltie and repentance in such degree as fornicatouris ar efter tryall and conviction. ' All penalties seem, however, to have been ineffectual, for pilgrimages were made to it by the Aberdeen citizens down to the beginning of the present century. ` In the month of May,' says the then minister of the parish, writing in the Old Statistical Account in 1793, `many of the lower ranks from around the adjacent city come to drink of a well in the bay of Nigg, called the Downywell; and, proceeding a little farther, go over a narrow pass, The Brig of ae Hair, to Downy-hill;' the latter being an eminence rising to a height of 214 feet above sea-level and about ½ mile S of Nigg Bay. Of St Fiacre - the Celtic form of whose name was Ma Futac, whence the ordinary form St Fittack - but little is known. The ordinary accounts make him the son of Eugenius IV., king of Scotland, and place him in the first half of the 7th century. Adopting a religious life, he went to France and had a hermitage at Breuil in Brie. The French word fiacre, meaning a hackney-coach, is said to be taken from his name, either because such vehicles were first introduced for the convenience of pilgrims going from Paris to visit his shrine, or, according to another account, because the first person to hire out coaches was one Nicolas Sauvage, whose house in the Rue Saint-Martin, in Paris, was marked by an image of St Fiacre. Mention of the church of Nigg occurs onwards from the time of William the Lyon, who granted it to the Abbey of Arbroath. Alexander II. followed up the grant by another of the whole lands of Nigg, and with the Abbey of Arbroath they remained till the Reformation, when the superiority passed to the Panmure family, with whom it remained till 1786, when part of it passed to the town of Aberdeen and Menzies of Pitfoddles. Names connected with the ecclesiastical possession of the parish still remain at Abbot's Walls, near the centre of the W side of the parish, and at Spital Burn. The former used to be known as Abbot's Hall, and near it was one of the residences of the Abbot of Arbroath. The Old Statistical Account mentions the ruins of it as having been recently removed. The burn probably takes its name from having had near it a hospital or hospice for pilgrims and travellers. The villages in the parish are Torry, Cove, Burnbank, and Charlestown. At Torry there was formerly a chapel dedicated to St Fotinns, and in 1495 James IV., on account of the great reverence he had `beato martiri Sancto Thome ac Sancto Fotino patrono ville de Torry,' erected the village into a free burgh of barony, a privilege which has, however, been allowed to lapse, and as the place seems now destined to become merely a suburb of Aberdeen, it will probably never be revived. The inhabitants of Torry are mostly fishermen, and in 1882 they possessed 28 first-class, 48 second-class, and 5 third-class boats, with 160 resident fisher men and boys. There is a Free church, and access is had to Aberdeen by a handsome granite bridge over the Dee, erected in 1876-77. There is a branch post office under Aberdeen, and not far off is a large brickwork. Cove, which is separately noticed, had, in 1882, 13 first-class, 12 second-class, and 5 third-class boats, and 98 resident fisher men and boys. Burnbank is on the coast about a mile N of Cove. In 1882 it had 6 first-class, 4 second-class, and 1 third-class boat, and 24 resident fisher men and boys. Charlestown is inland, 1 mile WSW of Cove. The parish is traversed by the great coast road from Aberdeen to Dundee, which, crossing the Dee by the bridge at Torry, or by the Wellington Suspension Bridge farther up the river, passes S through the centre; while another branch, which crosses the Dee at Bridge of Dee SW of Aberdeen, runs along the western border. The Caledonian railway passes northward along the coast till close to Nigg Bay, whence it curves westward across the Dee to Aberdeen, the total length of the Nigg portion being 5 miles. There is a station at Cove. The only mansion is Loirston House.

The parish is in the presbytery and synod of Aberdeen, and the living is worth £256 a year. The present church, near the centre of the parish, is a good granite building, erected in 1829 at a cost of £1800, and containing 900 sittings. It has a high square tower, which is seen for a long distance all round. Cove public, Torry public, and Cove Episcopalian schools, with respective accommodation for 111, 313, and 104 pupils, had (1883) an average attendance of 65, 214, and 59, and grants of £38, 8s. 8d., £183, 9s., and £34, 7s. 6d. Nine proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 3 hold each between £500 and £100, and 2 hold each between £50 and £20. Valuation (1856) £8559, (1884) £14, 390, 14s., plus £2884 for railway. Pop. (1801) 1148, (1831) 1684, (1861) 2074, (1871) 2348, (1881) 2935.—Ord. Sur., sh. 77, 1873.

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

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