Parish of Lochlee

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: Lochlee
1834-45: Lochlee

Lochlee (Gael. loch-le, 'the smooth lake'), a parish in the N of Forfarshire. The district is sometimes known as Glenesk. It is bounded N by Aberdeenshire, NE for a mile by Kincardineshire, E by Edzell, S by Lethnot and by Cortachy, SW by Clova, and W by Aberdeenshire. The boundary is entirely natural. Beginning at the NE corner, at the top of Mount Battock, the line passes down the course of the Burn of Turret to the North Esk, up the North Esk, 1½ mile, to the Burn of Keeny, and up the Burn of Keeny, and then up the Burn of Deuchary to the highest point of the Hill of Wirren (2220 feet), and from that westward along the line of watershed between the basin of the North Esk and that of the Water of Saughs-the main stream of the West Water -the principal summits being West Wirren (2060), West Knock (2273), two nameless tops to the W (2272) and (2246), Cruys (2424), East Cairn (2518), Muckle Cairn (2699), and White Hill (2787). From this point onwards the line continues between the upper waters of the North Esk and the upper waters of the South Esk in Glen Clova, the principal summits being Green Hill (2837 feet), Benty Roads (2753), Boustie Ley (2868), and Lair of Aldararie (2726), on the borders of Forfarshire and Aberdeenshire. From this the line follows the watershed between the basins of the North Esk on the S and the Dee on the N, first N by Black Hill of Mark (2497 feet) and Fasheilach (2362), and then E by a nameless summit (2170), HairCairn (2203), Mount Keen (3077), with its W shoulder (2436 and 2500), Braid Cairn (2907), Cock Cairn (2387), and the ridge between (2478), Hill of Cat (2435), Mudlee Bracks (2259), and a summit between (2363), Hill of Cammie (2028), and Mount Battock (2555). From Lair of Aldararie to midway between Hill of Cammie and Mount Battock the line coincides with the boundary between the counties of Aberdeen and Forfar, and from this on to the Burn of Turret with the boundary between the counties of Kincardine and Forfar. The greatest length, from ENE at Mount Battock to WSW near the Lair of Aldararie, is 153/8 miles; the greatest breadth, from N near Cock Cairn to S near West Knock, is 81/8 miles; and the area is 58, 382 acres. The surface, as might be expected from the vicinity of the parish to the Grampians, is very rough, and the average elevation is over 800 feet above sea-level. Besides the heights already mentioned, there are, between the Burn of Turret and the Burn of Tennet, Bennygray (1823 feet) and Craig Soales (1648); between Burn of Tennet and Water of Mark, Hill of Saughs (2141), Hill of Doune (2342), Craig Brawlin (1643), Badalair (1133), and Hill of Migvie (1238); between Glen Mark and Glen Lee are Round Hill of Mark (2257), Wolf Craig (2343), and Monawee (2276); to the S of Glen Lee are East Balloch (2731) and Craig Maskeldie (2224); between Loch Lee and Glen Effock is Cairn Caidloch (2117), and further to the E is Cowie Hill (1439). The heights are steep and rocky, or covered with heath and moss, and the heather extends even to the lower elevations. Of the whole area only about 2000 acres are arable, the rest is sheep-pasture or waste, and the W and SW is an extensive deer forest. The soil of the arable portion is thin and light with a gravelly subsoil, and the underlying rocks are primary, with beds of limestone. In the 16th century an iron mine at Dalbog was worked, and later lead ore was mined near Invermark, but the quantities are unremunerative. They were, however, noted in early times, and the last effort to work them was made by the South Sea Company in 1728 at Craig Soales. The drainage of the parish is effected by all the head-waters of the North Esk. The part to the W of Lochlee church, which is very near the centre of the parish, is drained by the Water of Mark (NW) and the Water of Lee (W). The former rises on the extreme W of the parish, and flows N, NE, and SE to its junction with the Lee, near Lochlee church, and receives on the N the burns of Fasheilach, Doune, Ladder, Easter, and Branny. The glen through which the Mark flows is in some places very wild and picturesque. The Water of Lee is joined by the Water of Unich, which itself receives from the S the burns of Longshank and Slidderies. To the NE of the church is the Water of Tarf, which receives from the W the burns of Adekimore, Easter, and Kirny, and from the N and NE the burns of Cat, Kidloch, Clearach, and Tennet, with the burn of Crospit. The Tarf is noted for its sudden and dangerous freshets. Farther E, on the boundary-line, is the Burn of Turret. To the E of the church the North Esk is joined on the S by the Water of Effock with the Burn of Cochlie, the Burn of Dalbrack, and the Burns of Berryhill and Deuchary, which unite to form the Burn of Keeny, and besides all these there are a very large number of smaller burns. The lochs in the parish are Carlochy and Loch Lee. The former lies in the bottom of a great basin-shaped hollow on the SE flank of Craig Maskeldie, surrounded by precipices. It contains char, and the fishing is good. The latter, about 1¼ mile E by N, and 900 feet above sea-level, is on the course of the Water of Lee. It is 1¼ mile long, and 3 furlongs wide at the widest part. The fish, which, when full grown, weigh from 1 to 3 lbs., are char and trout, and permission to fish is easily procured. The patron saint of the parish is St Drostan, Abbot of Donegal in Ireland, and of Holywood in Wigtownshire, who flourished in the end of the 16th century. Where his cell was it is difficult to say, but probably the site is now occupied by the present manse at Droustie. This seems a mere corruption of the saint's name, and a spring close at hand is known as Droustie's Well, while on Tarfside is Droustie's Meadow, and at Neudos in Edzell is St Drostan's Well. The whole district of Cairncross lying between the Tarf and the Turret belonged to St Drostan's Monastery, which was probably in this neighbourhood, though Dr Joseph Robertson maintained that it was in Edzell. The old church, which is at the E end of the loch, is sometimes called the ` Kirk of Droustie;' and a deep pool in the Lee has the name of `Monk's Pool,' derived, according to tradition, from the right possessed by the monks to catch salmon in it during Lent. In 1384, the parish is mentioned as being a chaplainry of Lethnot, and in 1558 mention is made of a curate, but it was not till 1723 that it became a separate charge. Of the oldest church that is noticed, nothing is known but that it was burned in 1645 by the soldiers of the Marquis of Montrose. It probably was on the same site as the present old kirk, at the E end of the loch, in a very picturesque position. This building was originally thatched, but was slated in 1784. The present parish church, which is a mile to the eastward, was built in 1803, and contains 270 sittings. The Free church, built in 1843, is farther to the E, and ¼ mile NE of the village of Tarfside. It contains 250 sittings, and in 1881 was adorned with two stained-glass windows by Messrs Ballantine, to the memory of Lord Dalhousie and Dr Guthrie, the former of whom chiefly built the church, whilst the latter worshipped within its walls for upwards of twenty summers. The Episcopal church (St Drostane), at Tarfside, was built in 1878-79 by Lord Forbes, in memory of the late Rev. Alex. Forbes, Bishop of Brechin (1817-75). The church, which is First Pointed in style, was consecrated in 1880; it has 135 sittings, and there are three stained-glass windows and a fine font. Tarfside, near the junction of the Tarf and N Esk, is now the only village in the parish, the older Glenlee or Kirkton being gone. It has a subpost office under Brechin, the Episcopal church and parsonage, the public school, and a masonic lodge (St Andrew's). This body, on its institution in 1821, erected St Andrew's Tower on Modlach Hill, to afford a refuge to benighted travellers who might be caught in snowstorms. The cairn on the top of Migvie or Rowan Hill, to the W, was erected in 1866 by the late Earl of Dalhousie (1805-80) as a family memorial, the names of himself, his wife, his brothers, and his sisters being engraved on a slab at the bottom. The only seat in the parish is Invermark Lodge (the Earl of Dalhousie-born 1847; suc. 1880), W of the parish church; and close by are the ruins of Invermark Castle, a fine square tower on a commanding site, close to the North Esk. It remained almost entire down to the erection of the present parish church, when all the outbuildings were pulled down, and the interior of the tower itself cleared out, in order that the materials might be used for that building. It has a curious old door made of iron, said to have been mined and smelted on the Farm of Tarfside. It seems to date from the earlier portion of the 16th century, and to have had a moat filled from the Mark, the mouth of which seems at one time to have been closer to it. It commands the important pass of Mount Keen to Deeside. Built by one of the Lindsays, it is now in the possession of the Earl of Dalhousie. The parish is traversed by a district road from Edzell up the basin of the North Esk, and there are a number of connecting roads to the E, the W being, as might be imagined, entirely destitute of any communication. A track leads from the church up Glen Mark and Ladder Burn by a winding path known as `The Ladder,' across Mount Keen and by Glen Tanner to Deeside. It was along this that the Queen and Prince Albert travelled 20 Sept. 1861, on their expedition to Fettercairn. The Lochlee part is thus described in Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands (1868): ` We came in sight of a new country, and looked down a very fine glen-Glen Mark. We descended by a very steep but winding path, called The Ladder, very grand and wild; the water running through it is called The Ladder Burn. It is very fine indeed, and very striking. There is a small forester's lodge at the very foot of it. The pass is quite a narrow one; you wind along a very steep and rough-path, but still it was quite easy to ride on it, as it zigzags along. We crossed the burn at the bottom, where a picturesque group of " shearers " were seated, chiefly women, the older ones smoking. They were returning from the south to the north, whence they came. We rode up to the little cottage; and in a little room of a regular Highland cabin, with its usual " press bed, " we had luncheon. This place is called Invermark, and is 4½ miles from Corrie Vruach. After luncheon, I sketched the fine view. The steep hill we came down immediately opposite the keeper's lodge, is called Craig Boestock, and a very fine isolated craggy hill which rises to the left-over-topping a small and wild glen-is called the Hill of Doun. We mounted our ponies a little after three and rode down Glen Mark, stopping to drink some water out of a very pure well, called The White Well; and crossing the Mark several times. As we approached the Manse of Loch Lee the glen widened, and the old Castle of Invermark came out extremely well; and, surrounded by woods and corn-fields, in which the people were " shearing, " looked most picturesque. We turned to the right and rode up to the old ruined castle, which is half covered with ivy. We then rode up to Lord Dalhousie's shooting-lodge, where we dismounted. It is a new and very pretty house, built of granite, in a very fine position overlooking the glen, with wild hills at the back.. We passed through the drawing-room and went on a few yards to the end of a walk, whence you see Loch Lee, a wild but not large lake, closed in by mountains.' In commemoration of the visit, the late Earl of Dalhousie erected a granite well at the White Well. It bears the inscription ` Her Majesty Queen Victoria and His Royal Highness The Prince Consort visited this well and drank of its refreshing waters on the 20th September 1861-the year of Her Majesty's great sorrow;' and round the basin is

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

On 19 Sept. 1865, the Queen and Princess Helena `drank with sorrowing hearts from this very well where just four years ago I had drunk with my beloved Albert. . . . We afterwards had some tea close by; and this fine wide glen was seen at its best, lit up as it was by the evening sun, warm as on a summer's day, without a breath of air, the sky becoming pinker and pinker, the hills themselves, as yon looked down the glen, assuming that beautifully glowing tinge which they do of an evening. The Highlanders and ponies grouped around the well had a most picturesque effect. And yet to me all seemed strange, unnatural, and sad' (More Leaves from the Journal, 1884). On Migvie or Rowan Hill are a number of cairns traditionally but wrongly asserted to be connected with an engagement between Bruce and Cumyn in 1307. There was certainly a meeting between their forces; but Cumyn either sued for peace or ran away without fighting. A stone with a rudely incised figure of a cross is pointed out as the position of Bruce's standard, but it is probably a boundary mark of church lands. Other objects worthy of notice are the standing stones at Colmeallie; the Court Hill, S of Modlach Hill, probably an old law hill; St Fillan's Well, beside the Burn of Gleneffock; Eagil's or Edzell's Loup, where the young laird of Edzell leaped across the Mark when pursued by the Earl of Crawford; Bonnymune's Cave, near Curmand Hill, where the laird of Balnamoon resided for a time after the battle of Culloden; Johnny Kidd's Hole (all these three are in Glenmark). At Gilfumman there was formerly a fine rocking-stone, but it has been thrown down. Near Carlochy is a small cave called Gryp's Chamber, after a robber of that name who lived in it. In the churchyard at the old church is a memorial of Alexander Ross (1699-1784), the author of Helenore, or the Fortunate Shepherdess, and of other shorter pieces, who was long schoolmaster of Lochlee, and who died there. The monument was erected by public subscription, and was at first erected in the new churchyard, but the Earl of Dalhousie removed it in 1856, and placed it near Ross's grave.

The parish is in the presbytery of Brechin and the synod of Angus and Mearns, and the living is worth £230 a year. The only proprietor is the Earl of Dalhousie. Originally belonging to the Lindsays, the district passed to the Panmure family, and on the Earl of Panmure's forfeiture in 1716 was sold to the York Buildings Company, but was afterwards recovered for its present possessors. Lochlee public school at Tarfside, with accommodation for 91 pupils, had in 1882 an attendance of 30, and a grant of £34. Valuation (1857) £1473, (1884) £3941, 6s. Pop. (1801) 541, (1831) 553, (1861) 495, (1871) 424, (1881) 359.—Ord. Sur., shs. 66, 65, 1871-70. See Andrew Jervise's Land of the Lindsays (Edinb. 1853; 2d ed. 1882).

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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