Britannia, by William Camden

Mernis.

Big T THESE parts were in Ptolemy’s time inhabited by the Vernicones, the same perhaps with Marcellinus’s Vecturiones. But that name is now quite lost, unless we can imagine a little piece of it to remain in Mernis. For oft-times (in common discourse) in the British tongue V is changed into M.

This little County of Mernis, butting upon the German Ocean, is a rich soil; and a pretty plain and level country.Mearns. ⌈It is so named from Mearn, a valiant Gentleman, to whom it was given by Kenneth the second; and is called also the shire of Kincarden, from the ancient town of Kincarden. To the east, it is bounded with the sea; to the south, with the water of North-Esk; to the west, with the Gransbain-hills; and to the north, with the River of Dee. In length, it is about twenty six, or (as some say) twenty eight miles; and in breadth, about twenty. Upon the sea-coasts, they have several convenient Creeks, and some good harbours, of which Stone-hive is one of the best; and, for its greater safety, the Earl Marshal (who has a Salmon-fishing upon the north side of the harbour) did some years since raise a Peer of stone.pier

Where the water of Cowy falls into the sea, stands Cowy,Cowy. a free burgh. Beneath the town, are to be seen the ruins of a Castle, built (as is reported) by Malcolm Kenmore, who made the town a free Burgh. On the Lands of Arduthie and Redcloak, are some trenches to be seen, which were cast up by the Danes at one of their Invasions made upon those parts; and round the hill of Urie, is a deep ditch, where the Scots encamped. But⌉ the most memorable place in this Tract is Dunnotyr,Dunnotyr. a castle advanced upon an high and inaccessible rock, from whence it looks down on the sea beneath; being fortified with strong walls, and with towers at certain distances. ⌈This rock is washed by the sea on three sides, and joyned to the Land only by a narrow neck. Towards the entrance of the Gate, is a huge rock near forty ells high, which one would think was always ready to fall. The Court is a large plot of green ground; and the old buildings, seven story high, have exceeding thick walls; and it had once a Church, which was demolished in the late Civil wars. In the new buildings, there are some rooms very stately, and a Closet wherein is a Library. Within the Close, there is a large Cistern, about thirty cubits about. St. Padie’s Church here, is famous for being the burial place of St. Palladius; and not far from this place is a dropping Cave, where the water petrifies.⌉

Keith. This Castle hath long been the seat of the Keiths, a very ancient and noble family; and they, in consideration of their great valour, have long been hereditary * * Now forfeited by Attainder.Earls MarshalEarls Marshals. of the Kingdom of Scotland; as they have also beenSheriffdom of Kincardin or Mernis. Sheriffs of this County. In a Porch here, is to be seen that ancient Inscription abovementioned, of a † Vexillationis.Company belonging to the XXth Legion, the letters whereof the most honourable the ¦ ¦ So said, ann. 1607.present Earl, a great admirer of Antiquity, hath caused to be gilded. Fordon. Somewhat farther from the sea, stands Fordon, to which it is some honour, that John de Fordon was born here; who with great industry compiled the Scotochronicon, and to whose Labours the modern Scotch Historians are very much indebted. But Fordon was much more honour’d in ancient times by St. Palladius’sSt. Palladius. reliques, formerly (as it is thought) deposited here; who in the year 431 was sent by Pope Cælestine to preach the Gospel to the Scots.relics Caelestine

⌈In this Shire, the Laird of Arburthnet,Arburthnet. of an ancient Family, was created Viscount Arburthnet by King Charles the first. As also, Sir Alexander Falconer of Halcertoun,Halcertoun. was by King Charles the first created Lord Halcertoun; and Lieutenant General Middletoun, of an ancient family of that sirname, was by King Charles the second created Earl of Middletoun.Middletoun.

Also, in this Shire, are to be seen two large and remarkable Monuments of Antiquity, at a place called Auchincochtie,Auchincochtie. five miles from Aberdeen. Dr. Garden’s Letter to Mr. Aubrey. One of these, is two Circles of Stones, the outward Circle consisting of thirteen great ones (besides two that are fallen, and the broad-stone towards the South,) about three yards high above-ground, and between seven and eight paces distant one from another; the Diameter of which is twenty four large paces. The inward Circle is about three paces distant from the other, and the stones thereof three foot high above-ground. Towards the East from this Monument, at twenty six paces distance, is a large stone, fast in the ground, and level with it, wherein is a Cavity, partly natural and partly artificial, which (supposing this a Temple) may be imagined to have served for washing the Priests, the Sacrifices, and other things that were esteemed sacred among the Heathens.

The other Monument (which is full as large, if not larger, than that already described, and distant from it about a Bow-shot) consists of three Circles, having the same common Center. The stones of the greatest Circle are about three yards above-ground, and those of the two lesser Circles, three foot; the innermost Circle being three paces Diameter, and the stones standing close together. One of the Stones of the largest Circle on the east side of the Monument, hath upon the top of it (which is but narrow, and longer one way than the other) a hollowness about three inches deep, in the bottom whereof, is cut out a trough one inch deep and two inches broad (with another short one crossing it) that runs along the whole length of the Cavity, and down by the side of the stone a good way; so that whatever Liquor is poured into the Cavity upon the top of the stone, doth presently run down the side of it by this trough; and it should seem, that upon this stone they poured forth their Libamina or liquid Sacrifices. There is also another stone in the same circle, and upon the same side of the Monument (standing nearest to the broad stone on edge, which looks towards the South) with a Cavity in the upper end, cut after the fashion of the cavity in the top of the other stone already described, and a natural fissure, by which all the Liquor poured into the Cavity, runs out of it to the ground.

Stone Monuments. The general Tradition throughout the Kingdom, concerning this kind of Monuments, is, that they were places of Worship and Sacrifice in the Heathen-times. In this part of the Country, they are commonly called Standing-stones, and in the High-lands, where the Irish is spoken, they call them Caer, which signifies a Throne, an Oracle, or a place of Address, and they have such a superstitious Veneration for them, that they will not meddle with any of the Stones, nor apply them to another use. Some of them are called, in their language, by the name of Chapels, and others by the name of Temples; and as to this Auchincochtie in particular, the tradition is, that the Pagan-Priests dwelt here; there being yet to be seen, at a little distance from one of the Monuments, the foundation of an old House. From another of those Monuments, a place in the Shire of Aberdeen and Parish of Ellon, is called Fochel (ie. below the Chapel;) from a third, a place in the Shire of Bamf and Parish of Aberlowr, is called Leachel beandich (ie. the blessed Chapel;) from a fourth, in the same Shire, another place is called the Chapel-den. Again, other Places where these Monuments remain, are called Temples; so, in the Parish of Strathawen, within fourteen miles of Aberdeen, there is a place called Temple-town, from two or three of this kind, that stand upon the bounds of it; and those two which we have described before, are called by the neighbours Temple-stones. All which instances do sufficiently prove, that they were places of Worship; and the same is confirmed by Groves near them, which we may well judge, from the superstitious Veneration that is still paid them, to have been formerly held sacred: One in the Parish of Killernen, in the Shire of Nairn; another, in the Parish of Ennerallen in the Shire of Inverness; and a third, in the Parish of Duthel in the same Shire.⌉

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06