Britannia, by William Camden


Aberdeenshire. Big A ABERDEENSHIRE (so called from the chief burgh in it,) contains the Countries of Marr, Fourmanteen, Garioch, Strathbogie, and that part of Buchan which lieth south of the water of Ugie. To the South, it is bounded with the River Dee and the Grainsbain mountains; to the north-west and west it hath Bamf-shire and the river of Doverne; to the east, the Ocean; and to the north, part of Murray-Frith. In length it is about forty six miles, and in breadth twenty eight. The Inhabitants are generally very civil and polite. They find here a spotted sort of Marble, and much Slate; and in the waters, abundance of Pearls, some of them very big, and of a fine colour. They have Deer in great abundance; and the Eagles have their Nests upon the Craigs of Pennan.⌉

Above Mernes, MARR lies farther in from the sea; a large midland Country, spreading about sixty miles. To the west, where it is broadest, it swells up in mountains, except where the rivers Dee (Ptolemy’s Diva) and the Done, open themselves a way, and make the champagne ground very fruitful. Kildrummy. Upon the bank of the Done stands Kildrummy, a great ornament to it; the ancient seat of the Earls of Marr. Barons Forbois or Forbes. Not far off, is the residence of the Barons Forbois, of a noble and ancient Stock, who took this sirname (being before called Bois) upon the Heir of the Family’s valiantly killing a huge mighty Boar. But at the very mouth of the river are two towns that are a greater ornament to it;Aberdeen. which from the said mouth (called in British Aber) do both borrow the same name, and are divided only by a little field that lies between. The hithermost of them, which stands nearer the river Dee, is much ennobled by the honour of a Bishop’s See (which King David the first translated hither from Murthlake, a little village;) and also by the fine houses of the Canons, and an Hospital for the Poor, with the publick School, founded by William Elphingston Bishop of this place in the year 1480; and is called New-Aberdene. The other beyond it, named Old-Aberdene, is very famous for the Salmon taken there. Theatrum Scotiæ, p.28. ⌈But to treat of these more particularly; Old-Aberdeen hath a Cathedral Church, commonly called St. Machars, large and stately, which hath been built by several Bishops of this See. In this Church was formerly a Library; but about the year 1560, it was almost wholly destroyed, so that now only the ruins remain. The King’s College (so called from King James the fourth, who assumed the Patronage of it) is seated on the south side of the town, and for neatness and stateliness much exceeds the rest of the houses. One side is covered with Slate, the rest with Lead. The windows of the Church (wherein is a fine monument of Bishop Elphingston the Founder) were formerly very remarkable for their painted glass; and something of their ancient splendor still remains. The Steeple, besides other Bells, hath two of a very extraordinary bigness. The top is vaulted with a double cross Arch, above which is a King’s crown, having eight corners upheld by as many pillars of stone, and a round globe of stone, with two gilded crosses closing the crown. Hard by the Church, is a Library well stock’d with Books, enlarged not many years since by those which Doctor Henry Scougal, Professor of Divinity there, and his Father, Bishop of Aberdeen, gave to it. The College has a Primate or Principal, a Professor of Divinity, a Professor of the Civil Law, a Professor of Physick, a Sub-Principal, who is also Professor of Philosophy, with three other Philosophy Professors, and a Professor of the Languages.

New Aberdeen. New Aberdeen, * * Theatrum Scotiæ, p.29.about a mile from the Old, as it is the Capital of the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen, and the Seat of the Sheriff for tryal of causes; so doth it much exceed the rest of the Cities in the north of Scotland, in bigness, trade, and beauty. The air is wholsome, and the Inhabitants well bred. The Streets are paved with flint, or a very hard sort of stone like it; and the houses very beautiful; generally, four Stories high or more, which, having for the most part Gardens and Orchards behind them, make the whole City at a distance look like a Wood. In the High-street, is a Church of Franciscans, of free-stone, begun by Bishop Elphingston, and finished by Gavin Dumbar, Bishop of the place. The same Gavin built also a bridge of seven Arches over the river Dee, about a mile from the City. But the greatest ornament of this City, is its College, called the Mareshallian Academy, as being founded by George Keith, Earl Marshal, in the year 1693, which the City of Aberdeen hath very much adorned with several additional buildings. Besides a Primary Professor (who is called Principal) it has four Professors of Philosophy, one of Divinity, and one of Mathematicks. There is also a famous Library founded by the City, which hath been supplied with Books by the benefactions of several learned men, and is well furnished with mathematical Instruments. This College, with that in the New Town, make up one University, called the University of King Charles. Add to these, the School-house (founded by Dr. Dune) which has one head Master and three Ushers; as also a Musick-School. St. Nicholas’s Church (the Cathedral) is built of Free-stone, and covered with Lead. Formerly it was divided into three Churches; the biggest was called the Old Church, another the New Church, and a third the Arch’d Church. They have also an Alms-house for the maintenance of such Inhabitants as are old and poor; with three Hospitals, founded by several Persons.

The City is built upon three hills; but the greatest part, upon the highest. The outer parts are spread out upon the plain, from whence there is an easie access, by an ascent every way. It had formerly a Mint, as appears by silver Coins stamped there with this Inscription, Urbs Aberdeæ, which are still preserved in the Closets of the curious.Aberdeae

At the West end of the City, is a little round hill, at the foot of which there breaks out a fountain of clear water. And in the middle, another spring bubbles out, called the Aberdonian-Spaw, and coming near the Spaw-water in the Bishoprick of Liege, both in taste and quality.⌉ J. Johnston, a native, has described Aberdeen in these verses:


Ad Boream porrecta, jugis obsessa superbis
Inter connatas eminet una Deas.
Mitior algentes Phœbus sic temperat auras
Non æstum ut rabidum, frigora nec metuat.
Fœcundo ditat Neptunus gurgite, & amnes
Piscosi, gemmis alter adauget opes:
Candida mens, frons læta, hilaris, gratissima tellus
Hospitibus: morum cultus ubique decens.
Nobilitas antiqua, opibus subnixa vetustis,
Martiaque invicto pectore corda gerens.
Justitiæ domus, & studiorum mater honoris,
Ingenio ars, certant artibus ingenia.
Omnia ei cedunt, meritos genitricis honores
Pingere non ulla Ars, ingeniumve valet


With circling cliffs her lofty turrets vie,
And meet her rival sisters of the sky!
So gentle Phœbus warms the sharper air,
Nor cold nor heat’s extreams her people fear.
Great Neptune and his sons for fish renown’d
With useful floods enrich the fertile ground:
In one fair current pretious gems are found.
True hearts and pleasant looks, and friendly cheer,
And honest breeding never fail you here,
Old their estates, old is their noble blood;
Brave are their souls, and scorn to be subdu’d.
Her steddy justice keeps her awful seat,
Wit strives with art, and art contends with wit.
But my great Mother’s worth and matchless praise
Nor art, nor wit can ever hope t’ express.

⌈Sir George Gordon of Haddo, Baronet, was created Earl of Aberdeen, by King Charles the second, in the year 1682. Glasford. Also from Glasford, in this Shire, Francis Abercromby was created Lord Glasford by King James the seventh. Portmore. And from Portmore, Sir David Collier, for his military Services, was created a Baron by King William the third, and was by Queen Anne advanced to the higher honour of Earl of Portmore.⌉

It is almost incredible, what abundance of Salmon there are, as well in these rivers, as in others on both sides of Scotland; a fish unknown to Pliny (unless it was the * * Bede and our Writers call it in Latin, Isicii.Esox of the Rhine,) but very common and well known in those northern parts of Europe, † Puniceo rutilans viscere.being¦ Ut inquit one says) of a bright scarlet all within. They breed in Autumn in little rivers, and mostly in shallows, where they cover their spawn with sand; at which time they are so very poor and lean, that they are scarce any thing but bones. Of that spawn in the spring following, comes a fry of small fish; which going to the sea, in a little time grow to their full bigness, and then making back again to the rivers which they were bred in, struggle against the force of the stream; and where-ever any heighth obstructs their passage, they will with a jerk of their tail (a certain * * Saltu.leap, whence probably they have the name of † † From salto to leap.Salmons) whip over, to the amazement of the spectators; and they keep themselves within these rivers, till they breed. During which time, there is a Law against taking them, that is, from the eighth of September to the first of December. And it should seem, that they were reckoned among the best commodities of Scotland; since it hath been provided by a Law, that they should be sold to the English for nothing but English Gold. But these matters I leave to others.

Kintor. ⌈Besides Aberdeen, Kintor (as hath been said) is a Burgh-Royal upon the Don, and InerurieInerurie. was erected into a Burgh-Royal by King Robert Bruce, upon account of his having gain’d a signal victory at it. Sir John Keith, of Keith-hall, Knight Mareschal, and son to William Earl Mareschal, was by King Charles the second created Earl of Kintore, whose second title is Lord Inverurie. On the South side of the Water of Ugie, stands Peterhead,Peterhead. which has a Road that will contain some hundreds of ships; and at this place, it is high-water when the Moon is directly South.

In several places also there are Obelisks,Obelisks. some with figures upon them; such as one would imagine had been set up for monuments of Cairns of Stones. battles. And they have likewise several Cairns of stones, some whereof are upon the tops of mountains. In some of these, bones have been found; and in one they met with the head of an Ax of brass, which seems to have been employed in their sacrifices.

The dropping Cave of Slains, is also very remarkable; of the petrified substance whereof, they make excellent Lime.

Pitsligo. Forbes Baron of Pitsligo was by King Charles the first created Lord Pitsligo, in the year 1633, And FraserFraser. of Stony wood or Muchill, was at the same time created Lord Fraser. Charles, fourth son of the Marquis of Huntley, was created Earl of Aboyn,Aboyn. by King Charles the second. Sir James Creighton, Laird of Frendraught,Frendraught. was by King Charles the first created Viscount of Frendraught. Lieutenant General King, was created Lord YthanYthan. by King Charles the first, from a river of the same name in this Shire; in whom the title was extinct.⌉

Earls of Marr. As for the Earls of Marr; In the reign of Alexander the third, William Earl of Marr is named among those who were enemies to the King. Whilst David Brus reigned, Donald was Earl of Marr, and Protector of the Kingdom; and was murdered in his bed before the battle at Dyplin, by Edward Balliol and his English Auxiliaries: whose daughter Isabella King Robert Brus took to his first wife, and had by her Marjorie, mother to Robert Stewart King of the Scots. Under the same David, there is mention made of Thomas Earl of Marr, who was banished in the year 1361: And under Robert the third, mention is made of Alexander Stewart Earl of Marr, who was slain in the battel at Harley against the Islanders in the year 1411. In King James the first’s time, we read in the Scotochronicon,Scotochron. lib.12. cap.33. Alexander Earl of Marr died in the year 1435, natural son of Alexander Stewart Earl of Buchan, son of Robert the second King of Scotland; to whom (as being a Bastard) the King succeeded in the Inheritance. John, * * Natu minor.a younger son of King James the second, afterwards bore this title; who being convicted of attempting by Art Magick to take away his Brother’s life, was bled to death. And after him, Robert Cockeran was advanced from a † Latomo.Mason to this dignity, by King James the third, and was soon after hang’d by the Nobility. From that time, it was discontinued, till Queen Mary advanced her Bastard Brother James to this honour; and not long after (upon finding that by ancient right the title of Earl of Marr belonged to John Lord Ereskin,) in lieu of Marr she conferred on him the honour and title of Earl of Murray, and created John Ereskin (a person of ancient Nobility) Earl of Marr; whose son of the same Christian name ¦ ¦ Now enjoys, C.enjoy’d the dignity, and * * Is, C.was in both Kingdoms one of his Majesty’s Privy Council; ⌈and in which Family this Honour continued, through several Successions, till it became forfeited and extinct, by the Treason of John late Earl of Marr, against his Majesty King George.⌉

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52