1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Elginshire

ELGINSHIRE, or Moray (Gaelic “among the sea-board men”), a northern county of Scotland, bounded N. by the Moray Firth, E. and S.E. by Banffshire, S. and S.W. by Inverness and W. by Nairnshire. It comprises only the eastern portion of the ancient province of Moray, which extended from the Spey to the Beauly and from the Grampians to the sea, embracing an area of about 3900 sq. m. The area of the county is 305,119 acres, or 477 sq. m.

Elginshire is naturally divided into two sections, the level and fertile coast and its hinterland—“the Laigh o’ Moray,” a tract 30 m. long by from 5 to 12 m. broad—and the hilly country in the south. There are, however, no high mountains. Carn Ruigh (1784 ft.), Larig Hill (1783) and Carn Kitty (1711) are the chief eminences in the south-central district until the ridge of the Cromdale Hills is reached on the Banffshire border, where the highest point is 2329 ft. above the sea. The two most important rivers, the Spey (q.v.) and the Findhorn, both have their sources in Inverness-shire. About 50 m. of the course of the Spey are in Elginshire, to which it may be roughly said to serve as the boundary line on the south-east and east. The Findhorn rises in the Monadliadh Mountains which form the watershed for several miles between it and the Spey. Of its total course of nearly 70 m. only the last 12 are in the county, where it separates the woods of Altyre from the Forest of Darnaway, before entering the Moray Firth in a bay on the north-eastern shore to which it has given its name. During the first 7 m. of its flow in Elginshire the stream passes through some of the finest scenery in Scotland. It is liable to sudden risings, and in the memorable Moray floods of August 1829 wrought the greatest havoc. Of other rivers the Lossie rises in the small lakes on the flanks of Carn Kitty and pursues a very winding course of 34 m. till it reaches the Moray Firth; Ballintomb Burn, Rothes Burn and Tulchan Burn are left-hand affluents of the Spey; the Dorbock and Divie, uniting their forces near Dunphail House, join the Findhorn at Relugas; and Muckle Water, a left-hand tributary of the Findhorn, comes from Nairnshire. The Spey and Findhorn are famous for salmon, but some of the smaller streams, too, afford good sport. The lochs are few and unimportant, among them being Loch Spynie, 2 1/2 m. N., and Loch-na-Bo, 4 m. S.E. of Elgin; Loch of Blairs, 2 1/2 m. S. of Forres; Loch Romach, 3 m. S. of Rafford; Loch Dallas, about 4 m. S.W. of Dallas, and Lochindorb in the S.W., 6 m. N.N.W. of Grantown. Loch Spynie was once a lake extending from the Firth to within 2 1/2 m. of Elgin and covering an area of over 2000 acres. Its shores were the haunt of a great variety of birds, and its waters were full of salmon, sea-trout and pike. But early in the 19th century it was resolved to reclaim the land, and the drainage works then undertaken reduced the beautiful loch to a swamp of some 120 acres.

Lochindorb is now the largest lake, being 2 m. in length and fully 1/2 m. wide. In the upper end, on an island believed to be artificial, stand the ruins of Lochindorb Castle, in the 14th century the stronghold of the Wolf of Badenoch, and afterwards successively the property of the earl of Moray, the Campbells of Cawdor and the earl of Seafield. Sir Thomas Dick Lauder saw at Cawdor Castle a massive iron gate which, according to tradition, Sir Donald Campbell of Cawdor carried on his back from Lochindorb to Cawdor, a distance of 13 m. In the southern half of the county, amongst the hills, are several glens, among them the Glen of Rothes, Glen Lossie, Glen Gheallaidh, Glen Tulchan and Glen Beag. Strathspey, though more of a valley than a glen, is remarkable for its extent and beauty.

Geology.—This county may be divided geologically into two areas, the hilly region to the south being composed of the crystalline schists of the Central Highlands and the fertile plain of Moray being made up of Old Red Sandstone and Triassic strata. In the Cromdale Hills in the south-east of the county the metamorphic series comprises schistose quartzite, quartz-schists, micaceous flagstones and mica-schists, which are granulitic and holocrystalline, the dark laminae in some cases containing heavy residues such as ilmenite and zircon. The greater portion of the metamorphic area west of the Spey consists of granulitic quartz-biotite-granulites and bands of muscovite-biotite-schist belonging to the Moine series of the Geological Survey (see Scotland: Geology). In certain areas these are permeated by granitic material in the form of thin strings, knots and veins. Excellent sections of these rocks are exposed in the Findhorn, the Divie and the tributaries of the Spey. Near Grantown there is a group locally developed, comprising crystalline limestone with tremolite, kyanite gneiss, muscovite-biotite-schist and quartzite, the age and relations of which are still uncertain. The general strike of the crystalline schists, save where there are local deflections, is north-east and south-west, and the general dip is to the south-east. Between Lochindorb and Grantown there is a mass of granite belonging to the later intrusions of the Highlands represented by the Cairngorm granite. Within the county there are representatives of the middle and upper divisions of the Old Red Sandstone resting unconformably on the crystalline schists. The strata of the middle or Orcadian series consist of conglomerates, sandstones, shales and clays, with limestone nodules containing fish remains. This sequence is well displayed in the banks of the Spey north of Boat of Bridge and in the Tynet Burn east of Fochabers, the latter being one of the well-known localities for ichthyolites in the middle or Orcadian division. In the Tynet and Gollachie Burn sections, the fish bed is overlaid by conglomerates and red pebbly sandstones, passing upwards into a thin zone of andesite lavas, indicating contemporaneous volcanic action. West of the Tynet Burn and Spey sections there is no trace of the members of the Orcadian division till we reach the Muckle Burn and Lethen Bar in Nairnshire, save the coarse conglomerate filling the ancient hollow of the valley of Rothes which may belong to the middle series. In that direction they are overlapped by the Upper Old Red Sandstone, which in the river Lossie, in the Lochty Burn and the Findhorn rest directly on the metamorphic rocks. Even to the south of the main boundary of the upper division there are small outliers of that series resting on the crystalline schists. Hence there must be a discordance between the Middle and Upper Old Red Sandstone in this county. The strata of the upper division consist of red, grey and yellow false-bedded sandstones with conglomeratic bands, which are well seen in the Findhorn between Sluie and Cothall, where they are associated with a bed of cornstone, all dipping to the N.N.W. at gentle angles. South of Elgin they are exposed in the Lossie and at Scaat Craig, while to the north of that town they extend along the ridge from Bishopmill to Alves. By means of the fish remains, which occur at Scaat Craig, in the Bishopmill quarries, at Alves, in the Findhorn cliffs and in the Whitemyre quarry on the Muckle Burn, the Upper Old Red Sandstone in this county is arranged in two groups, the Alves and Rosebrae. In the area lying to the north of the Upper Old Red Sandstone ridge at Bishopmill and Quarrywood, the strata of Triassic age occur, where they consist of pale grey and yellow sandstones and a peculiar cherty and calcareous band, known as the cherty rock of Stotfield. The sandstones are visible in quarries on the north slope of Quarry Wood, at Findrassie, at Spynie and along the ridge and sea-shore between Burghead and Lossiemouth. They are invested with special interest on account of the remarkable series of reptilian remains obtained from them, comprising Stagonolepis, a crocodile allied to the modern caiman in form; Telerpeton and Hyperodapedon, species of lizards; Dicynodonts (Gordonia and Geikia) and a horned reptile, Elginia mirabilis (see Scotland: Geology). The palaeontological evidence points to the conclusion that these reptiliferous sandstones must belong in part to the Trias, indeed it is possible that the lower portion may be of Permian age. In the Cutties Hillock quarry west of Elgin these reptiliferous beds rest directly on the sandstones containing Holoptychius of Upper Old Red Sandstone age, so that the apparent conformability must be entirely deceptive. Within the area occupied by the Trias west of Stotfield, flagstones appear, charged with fish scales of Upper Old Red age, where they form a low ridge protruding through the younger strata. Both the Upper Old Red and Triassic sandstones have been largely quarried for building purposes. On the shore at Lossiemouth there is a patch of greenish white sandstones yielding fossils characteristic of the Lower Oolite.

The glacial deposits distributed over the fertile plain of Moray and in the upland valleys are of interest. The low grounds were crossed by the ice descending the Moray Firth in an easterly and south-easterly direction, which carried boulders of granite from Strath Nairn and augen gneiss from Easter Ross. In the Elgin district, boulders belonging to the horizons of the Lower and Middle Lias, the Oxford Clay and the Upper Chalk are found both in the glacial deposits and on the surface of the ground. The largest transported mass occurs at Linksfield, where a succession of limestones and shales rests on boulder clay and is covered by it, which from the fossils may be of Rhaetic or Lower Lias age.

Climate and Agriculture.—The climate of the coast is equable and mild, even exotic fruits ripening readily in the open. The uplands are colder and damp. The average temperature in January is 38° F. and in July 58.5°, while for the year the mean is 47° F. The rainfall for the year averages 26 in. Considering its latitude and the extent of its arable land the standard of farming in Elginshire is high. The rich soil of the lowlands is well adapted for wheat, barley and oats. The acreage confined to the glens and straths under barley approximates that under oats. In the uplands, oats is the principal cereal. The breeding of live-stock is profitable, and some of the finest specimens of shorthorned and polled cattle and of crosses between the two are bred. On the larger farms in the Laigh Leicester sheep are kept all the year round, but in the uplands the Blackfaced take their place. Large numbers of horses and pigs are also raised.

Other Industries.—Whisky is the chief product, and the numerous distilleries are usually busy. There are woollen mills at Elgin and elsewhere and chemical works at Forres and Burghead. Owing to the absence of coal what little mineral wealth there is (iron and lead) cannot be remuneratively worked. The sandstone quarries, yielding a building-stone of superior quality, are practically inexhaustible. The plantations mainly consist of larch and fir and, to a smaller extent, of oak. Much timber was once floated down the Spey and other rivers, but, since the increased facilities of carriage afforded by the railways, trees have been felled on a wider scale. Boat-building is carried on at Burghead, Lossiemouth and Kingston—so-called from the fact that a firm from Kingston-on-Hull laid down a yard there in 1784—while at Garmouth the fishing fleet lies up during the winter and is also repaired there. The Firth fisheries are of considerable value. The boats go out from Findhorn, Burghead, Hopeman and Lossiemouth, which are all furnished with safe harbours. Findhorn has been twice visited by calamities. The first village was overwhelmed by the drifting sands of Culbin, and the second was buried beneath the waves in 1701. Kingston harbour is tidal, exposed, and liable to interruption from a shifting bar. The deep sea fisheries comprise haddock, cod, ling and herring, and the Spey, Findhorn and Lossie yield large quantities of salmon.

The Great North of Scotland railway enters the shire in the S.E. from Craigellachie, whence a branch runs up the Spey to Boat of Garten in Inverness-shire, and in the N.E. from Port Gordon, running in both cases to Elgin, from which a branch line extends to Lossiemouth. The Highland railway traverses the western limits of the shire running almost due north to Forres, whence it turns westward to Nairn and eastward to Elgin. From the county town it runs to Aberdeen via Orbliston and Keith, with a branch to Fochabers from Orbliston.

Population and Government.—The population was 43,471 in 1891 and 44,800 in 1901, when 1865 persons spoke both Gaelic and English, and 2 spoke Gaelic only. The chief towns are Elgin (pop. in 1901, 8460), Forres (4313) and Lossiemouth (3904), to which may be added Rothes (1621), Grantown (1568) and Burghead (1531). In conjunction with Nairnshire the county returns one member to parliament. Elgin and Forres are royal burghs; the municipal and police burghs include Burghead, Elgin, Forres, Grantown, Lossiemouth, and Rothes. Elginshire is included in one sheriffdom with Inverness and Nairn, and there is a resident sheriff-substitute at Elgin. The county is under school-board jurisdiction, several of the schools earning grants for higher education. There are academies at Elgin and Fochabers and science and art and technical schools at Elgin and Grantown. The bulk of the “residue” grant is spent in subsidizing the agricultural department of Aberdeen University and the science schools and art and technical classes in the county.

History.—Moray, in the wider sense, was first peopled by Picts of the Gaelic branch of Celts, of whom relics are found in the stone circle at Viewfield and at many places in Nairnshire. Christianity, introduced under the auspices of Columba (from whose time the site of Burghead church has probably been so occupied), flourished for a period until the Columban church was expelled in 717 by King Nectan. Thereafter the district was given over to internecine strife between the northern and southern Picts, which was ended by the crushing victory of Kenneth MacAlpine in 831, as one result of which the kingdom of Pictavia was superseded by the principality of Moravia. Still, settled order had not yet been secured, for the Norsemen raided the country first under Thorstein and then under two Sigurds. It was in the time of the second Sigurd that the Firth was fixed as the northern boundary of Moray. In spite of such interruptions as the battle of Torfness (Burghead) on the 14th of August 1040, in which Thorfinn, earl of Orkney and Shetland, overthrew a strong force of Scots under King Duncan, the consolidation of the kingdom was being gradually accomplished. After Macbeth ascended the throne the Scandinavians held their hands. Though Macbeth and his fainéant successor, “daft” Lulach, were the only kings whom Moray gave to Scotland, the province never lacked for able, if headstrong, men, and it continued to enjoy home rule under its own marmaer, or great steward (the equivalent of earl, the title that replaced it), until the dawn of the 12th century, when as an entity it ceased to exist. With a view to breaking up the power of the marmaers David I. and his successors colonized the seaboard with settlers from other parts of the kingdom. Nevertheless, from time to time the clansmen and their chiefs descended from their fastnesses and plundered the Laigh, keeping the people for generations in a state of panic. Meanwhile, the Church had become a civilizing force. In 1107 Alexander had founded the see of Moray and the churches of Birnie, Kinneddar and Spynie were in turn the cathedral of the early bishops, until in 1224 under the episcopate of Andrew of Moray (de Moravia), the church of the Holy Trinity in Elgin was chosen for the cathedral. Another factor that drew men together was the struggle for independence. In his effort to stamp out Scottish nationality Edward I. came as far north as Elgin, where he stayed for four days in July 1296, and whence he issued his writ for the parliament at Berwick. Wallace, however, had no doughtier supporter than Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell, and Bruce recognized the assistance he had received from the men of the north by erecting Moray into an earldom on the morrow of Bannockburn and bestowing it upon Thomas Randolph (see Moray, Thomas Randolph, earl of). Henceforward the history of the county resolved itself in the main into matters affecting the power of the Church and the ambitions of the Moray dynasties. The Church accepted the Reformation peacefully if not with gratitude. But there was strife between Covenanters and the adherents of Episcopacy until, prelacy itself being abolished in 1689, the bishopric of Moray came to an end after an existence of 581 years. (For the subsequent history of the earldom, which was successively held by the Randolphs, the Dunbars, the Douglases, the royal Stewarts and an illegitimate branch of the Stewarts, see Murray or Moray, earls of.) Other celebrated Moray families who played a more or less strenuous part in local politics were the Gordons, the Grants and the Duffs. Still, national affairs occasionally evoked interest in Moray. In the civil war Montrose ravaged the villages which stood for the Covenanters, but most of the great lairds shifted in their allegiance, and the mass of the people were quite indifferent to the declining fortunes of the Stewarts. Charles II. landed at Garmouth on the 3rd of July 1650 on his return from his first exile in Holland, but hurried southwards to try the yoke of Presbytery. The fight at Cromdale (May day, 1690) shattered the Jacobite cause, for the efforts in 1715 and 1745 were too spasmodic and half-hearted to affect the loyalty of the district to Hanoverian rule. A few weeks before Culloden Prince Charles Edward stayed in Elgin for some days, and a month afterwards the duke of Cumberland passed through the town at the top of his speed and administered the coup de grâce to the Young Pretender on Drummossie Moor.

Twice Elginshire has been the scene of catastrophes without parallel in Scotland. In 1694 the barony of Culbin—a fine estate, with a rent roll in money and kind of £6000 a year, belonging to the Kinnairds, comprising 3600 acres of land, so fertile that it was called the Granary of Moray, a handsome mansion, a church and several houses—was buried under a mass of sand in a storm of extraordinary severity. The sandy waste measures 3 m. in length and 2 in breadth, and the sand, exceedingly fine and light, is constantly shifting and, at rare intervals, exposing traces of the vanished demesne. This wilderness of dome-shaped dunes divided by a loftier ridge lies to the north-west of Forres. The other calamity was the Moray floods of the 2nd and 3rd of August 1829. The Findhorn rose 50 ft. above the ordinary level, inundating an area of 20 sq. m.; the Divie rose 40 ft., and the Lossie flooded all the low ground around Elgin. The floods tore down bridges and buildings, and obliterated farms and homesteads.

Authorities.—Lachlan Shaw, History of the Province of Moray (Gordon’s edition, Glasgow, 1882); A Survey of the Province of Moray (Elgin, 1798); W. Rhind, Sketches of the Past and Present State of Moray (Edinburgh, 1839); E. Dunbar Dunbar, Documents relating to the Province of Moray (Edinburgh, 1895); C. A. Gordon, History of the House of Gordon (Aberdeen, 1890); C. Rampini, History of Moray and Nairn (Edinburgh, 1897); C. Innes, Elgin, Past and Present (Elgin, 1860); J. Macdonald, “Burghead” (Proceedings of Glasgow Archaeological Soc.), (1891); Sir T. Dick Lauder, The Wolf of Badenoch (Glasgow, 1886); An Account of the Great Floods of August 1829 in the Province of Moray and Adjoining Districts (Elgin, 1873).