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rocks, the white spray showering through the fissure of the
Dunbuy, and rising in clouds from the churning caldron of the
Pot of the Bullers, there is a commanding fascination in the
play and strife of rock and wave, and an awe-inspiring beauty
in cave and arch and skerry, that speak to all, and that often
find simple and grand expression from the lips of men who
have spent their lives wrestling with those fierce seas under that

iron wall of rugged rock.
Buchan is the name of a well-defined district, bounded on
the west by the river Deveron, flowing northwards, on the south
by the river Ythan, flowing eastwards (the head-waters of the
latter rising not far from the banks of the former), and on north
and east by the German Ocean. The Gaelic name has been
variously translated, as meaning the land lying in the bend of
the ocean, which is thoroughly descriptive, and therefore
consonant to a characteristic feature of Celtic etymology, or as
signifying “cow-tribute,’ and thus bearing witness to the ancient
reputation of the region for its cattle. It is to this day famous
as a cattle-feeding district, and the descendants of the old
• Buchan humlie’ furnish much of the ‘prime Scots’ for the
London Christmas market. “Your friends live in Buchan,
7.e. far off, was the taunt of other Aberdonians to the man who
praised himself; and in the district a phrase is sometimes
heard, ‘The folk in this corner, which quaintly describes a
fact, and links on with the generally received derivation of
the name. In olden days, from its physical conditions and
perhaps from the immunity of its situation, Buchan was famous
for its crops. It was not without reason that the arms of its
old Earls were three sheaves of golden corn on an azure field.
Indeed the district was termed ‘the granary of Scotland,
and was the original “Land o' Cakes.’ It was probably to a
later period, when the “small corn” of the upland parishes
exhibited a production more famous for quantity than quality,
that the expression of supercilious neighbours is to be
attributed, ‘Ye're like Buchan victual, twa part and third,
alluding to the large proportion of bear formerly mixed with
oatmeal. While, however, the Land o' Cakes has extended its
limits to include the whole of Scotland, the province of Buchan
in olden days had broader bounds than those now assigned to it.
The oldest traces of local divisions in Scotland show us a large
province extending from the Dee to the Spey, which probably
embraced the country of the Taixali of the old Roman writers,
and is described by later Scottish annalists as consisting of Mar
and Buchan. It is certain that at a later time Buchan consisted
of the whole country from the Don to the Deveron, and at an
- intermediate

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intermediate period had included more of Banffshire. Two important localities identified with the old Earls of Buchan are found at Ellon and at King-Edward on its eastern and on its western confines respectively; and as Ellon was a central place when Formartine formed part of the Earldom, so would KingEdward be when it embraced a considerable part of Banff. Be that as it may, the Deveron has for generations been recognized as the western boundary, and Formartine—originally a thanage under the great overlord of Buchan—has long had a separate existence. Another thanage existed in the district of Glendowachy, or Doune, in the north-west.

Whatever might be its precise limits at any period, there is no doubt that Buchan was one of the great early Celtic divisions of the country. Its Mormaer, or Earl, was one of the native magnates known as the Seven Earls of Scotland. Its name is illustrated throughout Scottish history. It even appears in the pages of Ariosto; and far away, and common-place in some respects as the district is, it was, curiously enough, the principal seat of four of the most famous noble families of Scotland. The Cheynes of Inverugie gave the realm a Justiciar; the great house of Comyn, with possessions stretching from the German Ocean to the Western Sea, and castles here and there from Slains to Inverlochy, not to speak of ‘the realm of fair Menteith, almost ruled Scotland for generations; and—more remarkable still—for hundreds of years, from two castles on the bleak north-eastern coast, there issued the highest officers of the realm, who rode on the right and left of the king, and kept order, the one within, and the other without, the gates of the Parliament House, the Earl Marischal and the Lord High Constable of Scotland. In the case of the Keiths the old prophecy has come true—

“Inverugie by the sea,
Landless shall thy Lords be,
And underneath thy ha' hearthstane
The tod shall bring her bairnies hame.’

But the grey stone of Luncarty still rests before the doors of
“The Hays still flourish and their good grey hawk
Does not flinch before the blast.’

The geological composition of the district is a foundation of the primary or crystalline rocks covered with a thick coating of gravels and clays. Upon the clay later ages have placed the peat-mosses. Following the coast northwards from the Ythan, the line is bold and precipitous, the rocks consisting of gneiss and and mica slate, with numerous veins of quartz, covered in parts with a deep deposit of red clay. Far inland stretches the waste of sand, covering what was once the fertile parish of Forvie. It was overwhelmed in a terrific storm, similar to that which formed the sands of Culbin in Morayshire, and tradition associates with the catastrophe a wrong perpetrated on the heiress of the lands, who is said to have been carried off by a cruel relative or a pirate. As she was borne from the shore she is said to have uttered these words:–

“If ever mayden's malisoune
Did licht upon dry land,
Let nocht be fund on Furvy's rigs,
But thystil, bent, and sand.’

A similar sandstorm filled up the mouth of an inlet, made
Strathbeg a fresh-water loch, and ruined the port of Rattray, to
which the Dutch herring-busses used to resort.
The rocky coast-line is broken by a beautiful sandy bay
extending for about two miles, known as the Ward of Cruden,
beyond which precipitous red granite cliffs stretch to north of
Peterhead. In days when the bay of Peterhead is being
converted into a huge harbour of refuge, it is interesting to
note that the Countess of Erroll, who wrote a description of
Buchan two hundred years ago, records that “the English under
Cromwell, when they had founded their citadels of Inverness,
Ayr, Leith, &c., coming to see the stance and site of this place,
were much grieved for not seeing it sooner, it being most
commodious for a citadel or garrison, and to have been improved
to an excellent port to the eastern seas.” From Peterhead the
coast trends north-westward to Kinnaird Head, the bold head-
land at Fraserburgh which sentinels the Moray Firth. The
intervening shore is mainly sandy, broken by the headlands of
Craig-Ewan, Scotstown Head, Rattray Head, and Cairnbulg
Point. At Rattray there runs out a dangerous reef, of which
an old local distich of those navigating these seas says:–
‘Keep Mormond hill a handspike high,
And Rattray briggs ye’ll no come nigh.”

Mormond (the Mhor Mount or Big Hill) is indeed the only hill of any size in Buchan; and rising to nearly 800 feet from a level low-lying cultivated country, covered with dark heather, and with the figures of a white horse (carved out of the heather and filled in with quartz stones) on its south-western and of a stag on its south-eastern slopes, forms a prominent object in all the landscape north of the ridge that runs south-westwards from Buchanness, as does that of the Mount from Girdleness. From


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Fraserburgh westwards along the Moray Firth the coast is at first a low beach with flat rocks about the sea-margin, but from Rosehearty to Aberdour it rises the whole way “in an uninterrupted mural line of blackened and rifted precipices.’ The north-western section of the district, consisting of the parishes of Aberdour in Aberdeenshire and Gamrie in Banff. shire, presents features of its own. At Aberdour and Troup Head the old red sandstone crops out; the cliffs and the country immediately behind them are high. The land soon slopes away to the south, and is here and there cut up by the beautiful ravines and Dens of Troup, Pennan, and Dardar. The coast is bold, and famous for its caves and natural arches, in this resembling that on the eastern face; but while the traditions of the eastern shore are those of smuggling adventures, the caves along the Moray Firth are sanctified to the votaries of the White Rose by the perils of Lord Pitsligo. An old writer observes that there is not a seaward parish in Buchan that has not at least one and sometimes two or more “fischer-tounes.’ Very picturesque many of these are, perched at the head of some wild ravine amid the red rocks, with a shingly beach below, or clustering round the ruins of an old castle or early Christian church on a bold headland overlooking a sheltered spot of shore. Perhaps to a geologist the most interesting fact in Buchan is the occurrence on the ridge of hill running south-west from Buchanness of an extensive deposit of chalk flints. They are only found on the high ground which stretches as far south as Dudwick, in the parish of Ellon, but also occur on high ground between Turriff and Delgaty, and in Boyndie in Banffshire. Curiously enough, there are also found in the neighbouring parishes of Slains and Crudem two portions of the greensand formation which in England accompanies the flint. Of the coal measures and other strata, which in geological sequence intervene between the primary rocks and the flint-bearing chalk, there is no trace in Buchan. It is difficult to realize, when gazing over the wide prospect of fertile land, of woods, and of occasional mosses commanded from the central part of the ridge on which these flints are found, from Mormond on the north to the far-away barrier of the Mount beyond the bay of Aberdeen in the south, that it must probably have at one time formed the shore of an open sea. The peat-mosses, which covered so large a part of the face of the country a generation or two ago, take the mind to a period when the freshwater loch and the swamp must have been frequent features of its aspect. They rest almost invariably


upon a stratum of clay; their depth varies from two feet to
twenty-five, and close examination of their material has
disclosed that the greater part consists of the remains of
aquatic plants. The huge trunks imbedded in them, often
scarred and burnt, and bearing testimony either to the
frequency of great fires or to the fierceness of the devastation
with which Robert the Bruce visited the territory of his
strongest foes, tell of a time when this bleak and treeless district
was richly wooded and possessed all the characteristics recorded
by the Romans of the Caledonian forests. The tree of the
past in Buchan was oak ; and there are found with it birch,
hazel, alder, and mountain ash. Fir, on the contrary, is
generally absent, except in the case of the northern mosses,
more particularly those that existed to the north of Mormond,
where there seems to have been a pine forest. It is strange to
find the Earl of Buchan addressing a petition to Edward I.
begging that, as one of his manor-houses and most of his
domains had been destroyed by fire during the war, he would
grant him as much timber as he pleased from his forests of
Kintore and Buchan to repair his dilapidated residences,
History thus confirms tradition and the record of the peat; and
it is probable that in the days of its ancient Lords the region
was far more fully clothed with pleasant woods than, in spite of
the planting of two or three generations, it is to-day, and that
it boasted a more genial climate.
The peat-mosses not only tell us much of Nature's ways,
and how she renews out of destruction: but they disclose
interesting vestiges of man and of beast. In the moss of
Savock in Longside there were found at a great depth, and
beside the roots of an old oak-tree, still fixed in the soil,
several horms of the bos primogenius and two or three stone
celts, possibly silent witnesses of a primeval butcher's shop.
Antlers of roe and red deer of a larger size than living stags
carry occur; and in the moss of Knaven, near New Deer, there
was unearthed a canoe hollowed from a single oak. Flint
arrow-heads are very common in the district, though the
superstition that they were elf bolts, shot to cause the cows to
cease giving milk, and harmless so long as retained by the
first finder, rendered them difficult to obtain; but the mosses
have also disclosed flint spear-heads, a Roman spear-head of
bronze, a short bronze sword, a bronze celt, a bronze pot of the
Romano-British period, a solid oak spade, and a portion of a
large rude cross-bow. Perhaps not least interesting, though
later in date, was a solid silver statuette of a man on horseback,

about one and a half inches in height, found under sixteen feet of

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