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

Rathen (? Gael. Rath-aan, ` the fort on the river '), a parish containing a hamlet of the same name on the NE coast of the Buchan district of Aberdeenshire. It is bounded N by Fraserburgh parish, NE by the German Ocean, SE by the parish of Lonmay, SW by the parish of Strichen, W by a detached portion of the parish of Fraserburgh, and NW by the parish of Tyrie. The boundary with Fraserburgh is formed for 2¼ miles by the Rathen or Philorth Burn to its mouth, 2 miles SE of the town of Fraserburgh, and then extends along the sea-shore for 2¾ miles. Elsewhere the line is artificial. On the coast is Cairnbulg Point, - flanking the E side of Fraserburgh Bay. The greatest length of the parish, from NE to SW, is 6½ miles; the greatest breadth, 3¾ miles; and the area, 9789.758 acres of which 177.581 are foreshore and 24.971 water. The coast is partly flat and sandy, and partly formed by low rocks; and the surface adjoining both coast and burn is flat and well cultivated. In the SW the ground sweeps up to the ridge culminating in Mormond Hill (769 feet), on the borders of the parishes of Rathen, Strichen, and Fraserburgh, and here the appearance is bleak and barren. Of the land area of 9587 acres, about 200 are planted, about 1800 are rough pasture, and the remainder is under cultivation. The soil varies from a strong alluvium to a poor moorish earth. The underlying rocks are Silurian, and the beds of limestone are worked. The drainage is mostly carried off by the Rathen Burn, which has a course of 3 miles through the parish, and 2¼ along the border, and the smaller streams that flow into it. As might be expected from its vicinity to Deer, Rathen has associated with it thenames of two of the early Culdee missionaries-St Ethernan, who is said to have had his hermitage in St Ethernan's Den, on the E side of Mormond Hill; while a hillock and well, about ½ mile from the church, are associated with the name of St Oyne or Eyen. The old church is one of the most ancient in Aberdeenshire, and consisted of a nave with an aisle to the S, the latter erected by the Frasers of Memsie * in 1646. The belfry bears date 1782, and L. A. S., for Lord Abernethy and Saltoun; and the bell has the inscription, ` Peter Jansen, 1643. ' The year after the manufacture of the bell, the church was the scene of one of the many ` omens that were seene in diverse parts of the kingdome, ' during the great struggle between Argyll and Montrose. ` At Rethine in Buchan, ' says -Patrick Gordon, the author of A Shorte Abridgement of Britain's Distemper, ` there was about the tyme of morneing prayer for diverse dayes togithir, hard in the church a queire of musicke, both of woces, organes, and other instruementes, and with such a ravisheing sweetnes that they ware transported which, in numbers, resorted to heire it with unspeakable pleasure and never wiried delight. The preacher on day being much takin with the harmonie, went with diverse of his parisheners in to the church, to try if there eyes could beare witnes to what there eares had hard, but they ware no sooner entred when, lo, the musicke ceassed with a long not, or stroke of a wioll de gambo; and the sound came from ane upper lofte where the people used to heare service, but they could see nothing.' It underwent repair in 1767, but was finally replaced in l870 by a new church, a Gothic building with a spire, erected to the E of the old site. The ancient parish comprehended also part of Fraserburgh and the greater part of Strichen. The church was given by Marjory, Countess of Buchan, to the Abbey of Arbroath; and in 1328, Robert Bruce granted the benefice to the college and canons of Old Machar. The chief residence is Mormond House; Memsie House being now used as a farm-house. Both are separately noticed, as are also the Memsie Cairns and Cairnbulg and Inverallochy Castles. Trefor Hill, SE of the church, had, until some years ago, trenches and walls of earth and stone on it, so that it seems to have been a place of strength, and possibly the rath from which the parish takes its name. According to Peter Buchan, in his Gleanings of Scarce Old Ballads, the Jacobite songs of Whirry, Whigs awa' Man, and Logie o' Buchan, were written by George Hacket, schoolmaster of Rathen, ` in the years 1736 and 7; ' and it is added that he also wrote a Dialogue between George II. and the Devil, which was so obnoxious that the Duke of Cumberland offered a reward of £100 for the discovery of the author. Hacket was schoolmaster, not in 1736-37, but from 1714 to 1725, when he was deposed from office as having ` come to that hight of impudence as to deny all the faults he stands guilty of, and will not be convinced or made sensible of his miscarriages, and he having relapsed again and again, and no reformatione of heart or of ways to be found in him.' He seems subsequently to have taught adventure schools at Cairnbulg, Memsie, and Tyrie. There is no evidence for or against the reputed authorship, which rests entirely on Buchan's assertion. The parish is traversed by the main roads from Ellon and Peterhead to Fraserburgh and also by the Formartine and Buchan section of the Great North of Scotland railway, on the Fraserburgh branch of which there is a station of Rathen, 44¼ miles N of Aberdeen, and 2½ S of Fraserburgh. Besides the hamlet, which is ¾ mile W of the station, the parish contains also the villages of Inverallochy, Cairnbulg, and Charleston, all of which are separately noticed.

* The Frasers of memsie were cadets of Fraser of Philorth, from which family they branched off in 1482.

The parish is in the presbytery of Deer and synod of Aberdeen, and the living is worth £223 a year. It gives off the quoad sacra parish of Inverallochy. The parish church has been already noticed. There is also a Free church, 21/8 miles SSW of Inverallochy. Under the school board, Rathen and Inverallochy public schools, with accommodation for 230 and 300 pupils respectively, had (1884) an average attendance of 93 and 223, and grants of £86, 3s. 6d. and £166, 5s. Six proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 4 hold each between £500 and £100, and there are 2 of smaller amount. Valuation (1860) £8071, (1885) £11, 033, 2s. 7d., including £909 for railway. Pop. (1801) 1588, (1831) 2100, (1861) 2554, (1871) 2850, (1881) 2825, of whom 1372 were males and 1453 females, while 1248 were in the ecclesiastical parish.—Ord. Sur., sh. 97, 1876.

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