Document 1376

The Annals of Arbuthnott Part Two

Author(s): Isabella Williamson

Copyright holder(s): Isabella Williamson



The Parish of Arbuthnott

The parish of Arbuthnott is situated almost wholly to the north of the River Bervie. It extends from near the mouth of the river to where it meets, in the west, the parish of Fordoun, a distance of 5 miles. With projections in the north and south, the parish has a length of 6 miles. In the northwest, the Forthie water separates it from the parish of Glenbervie, and to the east lies Kinneff. On the south, Arbuthnott is bordered by the parish of Bervie and on the southwest by Garvock. Fordoun lies to the west. The parish covers an area of 9583 acres, nearly 15 square miles.

Arbuthnott Community Association Reminiscence Group

Arbuthnott Reminiscence Group began with a meeting at Millplough, Arbuthnott in 1991. Present were Mr Alex Middleton, Edzell; Mr Arch Middleton, Aberlemno; Mrs Molly Middleton, Inverbervie; Mrs Jean Stephen, Brechin; Mrs Madge Laing, Inverbervie; Miss Nellie Riddoch, Kilternan; Mr Arch Middleton, Millplough and Mrs Isabella Williamson, Kirkton. The main objective in meeting, apart from the beneficial nature of reminiscing, was the growing realisation that if we didn't begin recording people's experiences and memories of life in the parish over the last century, the information would be lost to us forever. This awareness was also linked to the building of the Grassic Gibbon Centre at that time, and the need to source photographs and information that could be useful in the Centre's exhibition.

More meetings were arranged, and on 10th June 1992, an open day was held to gauge further interest. Since then, the group has evolved into its present form: meeting monthy for lunch, and having a discussion afterwards. Occasionally speakers are invited and outings arranged. Meetings are very informal and anyone interested in the parish of Arbuthnott is welcome to come along.

Over the years, the group has been instrumental in raising money to republish the first Arbuthnott Reminiscence Book - originally printed in 1908 to raise funds to build the Parish Hall- and to construct disabled ramps at the Hall.

A successful application to the Help the Aged Millennium Fund has resulted in our now being able to publish the memories and photographs collected over the years. As with any such publication, compiled from the memories of others (some of whom are unfortunately no longer with us), we cannot be absolutely certain of the accuracy of the entire content. However, we have taken pains to ensure that the content is as precise as can be and that events have been placed in chronological order wherever possible. Further, we have endeavoured to source all owners of copyright material used and would be grateful to learn of any omissions, which will then be incorporated in all future editions. We would also be interested to hear from anyone who has any further information or photographs which they feel would be useful for our archive, or future publications.

The title of the publication 'The Annals of Arbuthnott' comes from a newspaper article printed in the Mearns Leader in 1915 - an extract of which can be found in the 'Newspaper Gleanings' section.

The bulk of the content covers the period between 1900 and 1960, with some exceptions where the interest in the subject dictated that a longer period of time required to be covered.

In order not to omit anything of particular interest, it has been necessary to publish the 'Annals of Arbuthnott' in two parts.


Compiling the 'Annals of Arbuthnott' has taken a huge effort from many individuals. It has been an incredible experience; tremendously enjoyable, humorous and at times heartbreakingly frustrating, but the end result we hope will bring enjoyment to many people today and for future generations. We would like to acknowledge the following people for their assistance with this publication:

[NOTE: List of names here in original]

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School as it is today.']

Chapter 1


The school in Arbuthnott was built on its present site around 1866. Before that time it is recorded that there was a school beside Arbuthnott Church as far back as 1694. Rev. William Crystall M.A. (who was schoolmaster at Arbuthnott between 1815 and 1865) is recognised as being predominantly responsible for furthering education in the parish. By 1843 there were few persons in the parish who could not write, and all could read to some degree. He housed a small number of boarders in the schoolhouse, the most famous being Hercules Linton, who designed the sailing ship 'Cutty Sark'. The new school was built shortly after Rev. Crystall's death. The old school beside the church was demolished in 1913 - the date 1713 was on a plaque above the door.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Annie Milne's exercise book, 1891.']

Previously there was also a small school at Boghall and a private school beside Arbuthnott House.

In 1901,115 pupils were enrolled at Arbuthnott School.

In the winter, dinner at school was half a slice of bread and a plate of soup from the soup kitchen, often broth, pea or tattie soup. Local farmers provided vegetables, barley and rabbits for the soup, and the butcher supplied bones. In April 1900, nineteen weeks of dinners were provided through donations from: Mr Cobb, Mains of Kair; Mr. Gray; Mr. Murray; Mr. Thomson, Pitcarles; Mr. Pratt, Mill of Allardyce; Mr. Reid, Townhead; Mr. Stewart, Millplough; Mr. Donald, Mains of Allardyce; Mr. Eddie, Milltown.

[NOTE: Photo: 'School reunion in 1988: Nellie Riddoch; May Smith and Maggie Aitken, who attended Arbuthnott School together in 1914.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Examples of hand writing and sums from Annie Milne's exercise book.']

In February 1917 a report appeared in the Kincardineshire Observer about a whist drive in aid of the soup kitchen. 80 players took part and £7 was raised. The Stonehaven Journal of March 1917 mentions that hot dinners from the school soup kitchen had been stopped for the summer and that in spite of the scarcity of potatoes, caused by bad weather, the soup kitchen had been most successful, though it was necessary to increase the charge to 1p. Local farmers had gifted potatoes, carrots and barley. When the soup kitchen was not supplying meals, children carried a 'piece' to school and had a drink of water out of the tap.

Around 1929 Mrs Rettie was the school cook. Later, Leeb Milne, from Kirkton cottage, cooked the dinners. Leeb toasted the heels of bread and gave them to the pupils who helped dry the dishes. At that time pupils paid 2½d per week for dinner. The boiler for the soup was out in the shelter sheds, which were situated at the back of the school. The soup was carried in three buckets, one for each classroom, and passed in through a window to the pupils who ate the soup at their desks. The older girls collected the empty dishes and helped wash them. At playtime children ate bread and jam, syrup or treacle. Syrup pieces could be bought from the shop for ½d but you had to eat them at once or the syrup dried in. During the 2nd World War cocoa replaced soup at lunch time.

In 1905 every child starting school was given a brown leather schoolbag, which is remembered to have been a gift from the Andrew Carnegie Trust. Leather bags were taken to the souter for repair when required, and school bags were also handed down through the family. Later, bags made from reconstituted paper-mache, gifted by Coats of Paisley, are remembered.

The school was lit with paraffin lamps. A big stove and open fires supplied heating; wet clothes were dried on the fireguard. There were three classrooms with partitions between them, which could be opened and closed as required.

In December 1907 the Stonehaven journal published that Mr. Coats Jun, Paisley, had gifted a library to Arbuthnott School, and by the kindness of the Rankine Trust, 30 volumes had been added to the collection. The library withdrawal register is now held at the Grassic Gibbon Centre.

That same month the Journal also mentions that a list of irregular school attendees was submitted and that the board officer was instructed to call on certain parents regarding continued irregularity.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Miss Milne, teacher at Arbuthnott School in 1913.']

Before 1913 different age groups were separated, as were boys and girls. A wall divided their playgrounds: the boys' one being nearest the road. In class, children wrote on a slate with a slate pencil and carried a small tin with a piece of wet cloth or sponge in it to clean their slate - the cloths soon developed a distinctive smell. The slates were supplied by the school, but pupils had to buy their own slate pencils. During holidays your slate was taken home and scrubbed. Pupils' initials were burnt on the wooden frame for identification and anyone who broke their slate found themselves in serious trouble. For good work and homework, copybooks were used. Textbooks had to be looked after as they were expensive.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Intermediate Certificate for Rebecca Middleton, 1918.']

The class teacher taught all subjects with pupils being taught in groups. Everybody had to learn their tables and do mental arithmetic. Teachers were very strict and often resorted to using the strap, also known locally as the tawse or tag, as a punishment for pupils making mistakes in schoolwork and homework as well as general misbehaviour. To receive your punishment you held your hands out in front, one on top of the other and the teacher hit your hand with the strap; if the misdemeanour required more than one stroke the child changed hands half way through the punishment. Teachers also had a long wooden pointer for keeping the place on the blackboard and it was regularly used for gaining the attention of a day-dreaming pupil. Another punishment was to be made to stand in the corner. The teacher's desk sat on a raised platform which meant no one could hide from the teacher; pupils always sat with their arms folded.

There were yearly tests and a report had to be signed by parents. Pupils had to pass the yearly test before they could move on to the next class. In September 1914 pupils from Arbuthnott School entered a County Essay Competition; the winner for the county of Kincardine was James Mitchell, Bloomfield - later to become the much-loved Scottish author, Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

At a meeting of the school board in July 1915 two applications for the post of assistant teacher were considered, but no appointment was made. The chairman of the meeting, Mr. Robert Eddie, also noted that two former Arbuthnott School pupils, Miss Adeline J. Preddy and Miss Elizabeth Bannerman had both graduated from Aberdeen University with an M.A. Later that same year at another meeting of the school board the clerk was instructed to write to certain defaulters whose children had not been attending school regularly.

A news report in September 27th 1918 shows the children were involved in the war effort by collecting sphagnum moss, which was used to dress wounds.

[NOTE: News article about moss picking]

There was no school transport and children walked to school in all weathers. Through their daily journey children learned all about the countryside, wild flowers, birds and animals. They knew exactly where the birds' nests were and the best field of neeps. Dodd Middleton's journey to school took him over the hill from his home at the Gobbs, past the quarry, and out at Milltown cottage. On occasions he never actually managed to get past the quarry but instead stayed there all day playing truant.

Once, a number of children on the way home from school decided to stop between East Lodge and Parkneuk to eat a turnip to'skite' their hunger. A passing photographer saw them and took their photograph, and it appeared in the local paper the following Friday - some thought it should have been the Police Gazette!

[NOTE: Photo: 'The Middleton family from the Gobbs, early 1920s.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Old Arbuthnott School beside the church, before it was demolished in 1913.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Kincardineshire Education Committee Certificate for perfect attendance to Archibald Middleton in 1938.']

Around 1906 Kathleen & Douglas Stewart, Millplough, felt embarrassed because they wore shoes to school and most of the other children at the time were barefoot. One day, rather than be teased, they hid their shoes in the ditch on the way to school where the roadmen came across them and moved them. On their way home Kathleen and Douglas couldn't find their shoes and were then afraid to go home. The shoes were eventually found.

Another memory is of eating locust beans out of the sheep feed on the way to school.

Pupils enjoyed an annual school picnic. One at the seaside is remembered, with the local farmers providing horse and carts for transport. In August 1916, the picnics outside the parish were discontinued due to the war and instead held at Milltown, courtesy of Mr. Bob Eddie, chairman of the school board. The children marched two by two to the picnic where games and races were held and tea, jelly and ice-cream enjoyed; Mr. Jimmy Mutch, Bamph Croft, was in charge of the Aunt Sally. Sunday School picnics were held in the field beside the Manse garden, when a bag of mixed buns was provided for each pupil.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Kathleen Stewart, around 1920.']

An annual school party - called a soiree - was held in the school until the hall was built in 1908.

A school concert was held every two years in aid of the soup kitchen - every child had two parts. One was held in March 1918 when the notice in the local paper read:

[NOTE: Newspaper article]

You attended school between the ages of 5 years and 14 years, although pupils from large families could be exempt from school at the age of 13½. Around 1947 the school leaving age went up to 15 years.

Before the 1st World War, if you continued your education past the age of 14 you had to go to the Mackie Academy in Stonehaven. To travel there you had either to cycle or walk to Fordoun or Drumlithie, catch the train to Stonehaven and then walk down to the academy from the railway station.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Drumlithie railway station.']

In 1936 when Lord Arbuthnott, who is also the Baron of Bervie, opened the Jubilee Bridge at Bervie, the children walked from the school down to Bervie to watch.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Bervie Jubilee Bridge.']

Later, pupils above 12 years of age attended Bervie School or Mackie Academy.

[NOTE: 'Table of school role between 1919 - 1949']

During the 1950s the qualifying race for the inter-school sports was to run from the top of the church road down the brae to the bottom - the winners progressed to the inter-school sports. Also remembered at that time was that the name given to the teacher's whistle was the 'birlie', and that on special occasions as a treat, Mrs. Johnstone, the teacher, would bring out a dried corn on the cob which had come all the way from America.

Arbuthnott School always seems to have had an outward looking attitude: in 1972 the school was involved in raising money for the Earl Haig Fund, The Central Council for the Disabled and for the National Children's Home. That year they also made baskets from plastic binder twine and filled them with little chocolate eggs. These were handed over to the Bervie Red Cross for distribution to the elderly in the area. A blanket was made and given to the Red Cross who sent it to Mauritius.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Thorn and children presenting Mrs Innes, British Red Cross Society, with Easter baskets and a knitted blanket, May 1973.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School attending Dick Whittington at the theatre, Aberdeen in 1972.']

That same year a Halloween party was held by the school committee and Gavin Anderson won a competition to design a programme cover for the pantomime Dick Whittington - the prize was for all his class to go to Aberdeen, have tea in a hotel then watch the pantomime dress rehearsal and, after the show, meet the performers. When it was discovered that there were only 17 pupils in the entire school, the theatre management very generously included them all in the prize.

Over the years, the school role gradually dropped and, despite efforts to keep the school open, it was eventually closed on 30th November 1973, by which time the role had fallen to just 13 children. Parents were then given the choice of their children attending Redmyre School at Fordoun or Bervie Primary School.

[NOTE: Photo: 'The 'Keep Rural Schools Open' campaign.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Presentation from pupils when the school closed to Mrs Thorn, teacher - a telephone table; and Mrs Bolton, school help - a nest of tables.']

The following are the names of the pupils who attended Arbuthnott School on its last day: [NOTE: List of pupils]

[NOTE: Photo: 'The seven last pupils']

After closing, the school stood empty for a number of years, except for a period when Arbuthnott Playgroup met there. The playgroup moved to the hall in 1983 when Grampian Regional Council deemed the building to be unsafe for use. Subsequently the property was re-purchased by Arbuthnott Estate and the building is now enjoying a new lease of life as holiday homes.

The following are various school-day snippets and memories:

• Miss Buchan, a teacher, treated toothache with carbolic jelly and died because she swallowed some.

• Around 1933 Miss Ogilvie lodged with the Mathiesons at Milltown and married John Gordon. The Mathiesons had a son while Miss Ogilvie lodged there and he was named Ogilvie Mathieson.

• During the 2nd World War, at the age of five or six, because of a forgotten gas mask, Doreen Jeans remembers being sent home from school to walk the 3 miles back to the Deep farm. By the time she had walked home and back to school it was 4 o'clock and time to go home again!

• Doreen also remembers hanging on to the back of bogeys if they passed on the way to school. She particularly remembers one day when a new girl fell off the bogey and badly skinned her knees. She was taken to Rosebel Greig's who cleaned her up, and gave everyone such a row that they never held onto a bogey when passing Mrs. Greig's house again.

Teachers over the years:
[NOTE: List of teachers' names]

[NOTE: Photo: 'The earliest Arbuthnott School photograph we have; taken in 1909. The only pupils recognised are Leslie Mitchell (fourth from the left in the back row) and Chris Queen (sixth girl from the left in middle row).']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School sometime before 1920']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School sometime around 1920.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School, early 1920s.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School circa 1924.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School circa 1927.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School sometime between 1925-30.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School 1945.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School 1952-53.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School 1958.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School 1959.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School 1961.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School 1963.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School 1970.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School, spring 1971.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School get together in 1970.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Middleton family school photograph - the girls' frocks were made down from an old kilt.']

Chapter 2


Arbuthnott Parish Hall

The hall in Arbuthnott was built in 1908 by public subscription and since then it has proved to be a focal point in the community, especially since the school closed in 1973. Over the years, its rafters have rung from the music, laughter and song of countless concerts, dances, children's parties and social occasions. The hall itself has changed little over the years except for the following additions and alterations:

• A shed made from metal sheets was built outside the hall in 1949. The shed was purchased from Lochhead Industries for £56:3:4 and the foundations laid by Ramsay, Inverbervie at a cost of £44:10:11. The shed was paid for by the Social Club and used for storing equipment. It was removed in 1991 when the Grassic Gibbon Centre was built.

• Mitchell's, Laurencekirk, installed Calor Gas in 1951 which cost £60.

• Electric lighting and heating were installed in June 1959. R & W Peter, Inverbervie, carried out the work at a cost of £166:10.

• A committee room was built onto the west side of the building in 1985. The cost of £10,200 was met through a capital grant with the community raising over £4000. This was originally to be used as a store for the playgroup, who resumed meeting in the hall in 1983, but plans were changed when it was realised that meetings would be much more comfortable in the smaller, cosier room.

• The kitchen and toilets were replaced, removing the corrugated iron lean-to at the back of the hall, when the Grassic Gibbon Centre was built in 1991.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Outside of the hall sometime between 1920 and 1935 when the fence was still in place. The couple are unknown.']

• Refurbishment was completed during 1998/9 when major renovations including insulation, heating and a new floor were undertaken. These works were carefully carried out in order to maintain the traditional character of the building. During these final works a 'time capsule' was placed beneath the stage, which it is hoped, will be of interest to future generations.

In May 1915 the following news item about the hall appeared in the local press.

[NOTE: Newspaper article]

Arbuthnott Community Association

The community association, formerly known as the hall committee, is the management body for the hall acting on behalf of the hall trustees. The hall trustees are: the session clerk - Mrs Mary Smith; the Minister - Rev. Alistair McKillop and the local councillor for the area - Councillor Ian Frain.

The association consists of a representative from all constituted groups who regularly meet in the hall plus an equal number of independently elected members. At present there are 15 members.

The community association 'owns' the Grassic Gibbon Centre, which is a not-for-profit community business managed by a board of directors.

[NOTE: Photo: 'The Grassic Gibbon Centre.']


Many, many dances have been enjoyed in the hall over the years. During both World Wars, newspaper articles show us that the community was particularly active in fund raising for the war effort. Dances and whists appear to have been a standard format for raising funds. The following notices from newspapers illustrate the variety of dances held over the years.

[NOTE: Newspaper article from January 1907]

[NOTE: Newspaper article from November 1918]

[NOTE: Newspaper article from February 1919]

[NOTE: Photo: 'James Riddoch. 1899.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Those who attended a dance in aid of school funds, possibly sometime after 1925. The only person identified is Mr Carson the headmaster, sitting in the front, 2nd from the left.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'This company were reported in the 'Mearns Leader' to have voted this the best dance ever held in the hall. The distinctive paraffin lamps can be clearly seen.]

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott leap year dance invitation, 1924.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Taken at a dance in the 50s.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Another photo taken at an Arbuthnott dance, around 1949.']

In 14th February 1941 the hall committee minutes show that to help meet the £10 annual expenditure for maintaining the hall a military whist and dance took place. Messrs. Goodfellow's Band from Inverbervie played for a fee of 36/- and a permit was required from the Chief Constable. This type of dance occurred on an annual basis. In 1938 the entry fee for a dance was 1/- and by 1946 this had increased to 2/6 for whist and dance and 1/6 for the dance only. Homemade tablet was sold in the hall before some dances and tea and sandwiches were served at half time. It was usual for the men to sit at one side of the hall and the women at the other and that the partner you had for the last dance usually asked to see you home.

In the 1940s women wore long dresses and pumps to dances. To travel to and from the dance, button gaiters were worn over the shoes. If cycling to a dance, bike guards prevented dresses from becoming entangled in the chain, or you carried your dress in a bag and changed at the hall. This was because dresses were often made of crepe and if they got wet they would shrink. Men wore jacket, trousers, waistcoat and boots. It is remembered that at the time of the abdication of the Duke of Windsor a dance held at Fordoun was halted while everybody listened to the radio as the Duke made his abdication speech to the nation.

Between 1946 until the early 1950s, there was dancing every Saturday night at Inverbervie. After the dance, which finished at 11.30 p.m., it was common practice to visit Jean Allison's fish and chip shop before returning home either on the late bus or by walking. It is reputed that the present award winning fish and chip shop in Bervie owes its success to Jean Allison's secret batter mix!

Folk also remember attending dances in Fordoun, Kinneff, Drumlithie and Stonehaven. All were within cycling distance but it was a treat to go to a dance, as you could not afford to go often.

Women did not frequent public houses until after the 2nd World War.


Arbuthnott Farmers Ball

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott Farmers Ball in the Crown Hotel in Inverbervie in December 1967.']

For a number of years the Arbuthnott Farmers Ball was an annual event. Invitations to attend were sent out by the committee. Later the farmers ball was held in Stonehaven and Inverbervie. The ball stopped in the late 1960s and in 1980 £150 was transferred from the then defunct farmers ball to the community association leaving the farmers ball a balance of £68.61.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott Farmers Ball ticket, December 1963.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'An early photo of Jimmy Allison']

The Rabbit Ball

During the 2nd World War, once a year, Jimmie Allison, the Arbuthnott Estate gamekeeper would net a field surrounded by trees called 'the birnie'. The lads who worked on the estate would then catch the rabbits trapped by the net. The rabbits were then sent to London by train, tied in pairs by the hind legs and hung on special poles in custom made baskets. Afterwards the laird held a dance for the lads in the hall. A bar was located outside in a tent.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Example of a typical programme for a ball from 1946.']


Many folk remember spending enjoyable evenings in the hall attending concerts. The following news item dated 5th March 1915 illustrates the type of concert held in the hall at that time.

[NOTE: Newspaper article about Women's Guild Entertainment]

At another concert Molly Cushnie can remember singing "Molly's tired of washing dishes, a fairy she would wish to be". Others remember Norman Roberts playing the cornet and Les Watt singing "With the big Kilmarnock Bonnet". On another occasion at a concert around the time of Armistice a song was sung called: "Poppies gaily waved to-night". Also remembered on another occasion was that during the performance of "Nicky Tams" the paraffin lamp fell down on the singer.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Sunday School concert in the hall with Rev. Ian Gough and Mrs Ethel Brown, in the mid 1970s.']

The following is a remembered favourite:

A donkey stood in a field of hay
A donkey stood in a field of hay, field of hay, field of hay
A donkey stood in a field of hay eee-aw, eee-aw, ee-aw

The hay was good and he munched away, munched away, munched away
The hay was good and he munched away, ee-aw, ee-aw, ee-aw
Some hornets were hiding amongst the grass, amongst the grass
Some hornets were hiding amongst the grass ee-aw, ee-aw, eeaw

Sadly they bothered the poor old ass, poor old ass, poor old ass,
Sadly they bothered the poor old ass, ee-aw, ee-aw, ee-aw.

Other verses could be made up to fit into the tune e.g.
They chased him round the field...
They stung his nose and how he squealed.

A particularly good concert held by the social club in the early 60s included Andrew Williamson, Alpitty and Derek Barclay, Townhead, as policemen. Their performance is remembered to have been extremely funny; Andrew especially remembers the look of horror on Derek's face when he accidentally knocked his hat off.

Clubs and Associations

Mutual Improvement Association

This is one of the earliest associations we have been able to trace, but only through newspaper articles and notices, and therefore little else is now known about them. In March 1907 the following end of session report appeared the Stonehaven Journal.

[NOTE: Newspaper article]

Further information about the topics this group discussed at their meetings appears in the 'Newspaper Gleanings' section.

The Bervie and Arbuthnott Reading Society

The reading society was instituted in 1883. Their main objective was to circulate a number of magazines around their members. Members were allowed to keep the magazine for one week before passing it on to the next member.

Early magazines included 'Harpers Monthly', 'Chambers Journal', '19th Century' and 'Blackwoods Magazine'. Later ones included 'Cassell's Weekly' and the 'Cornhill Magazine'. The last entry in the minute book of the society, which is held in the Grassic Gibbon Centre, is dated 1938.

[NOTE: Photo: 'The rules for the Bervie and Arbuthnott Reading Society.']

Other early clubs and groups mentioned in news articles but of which we have no further information include:

• A continuation class

• Dress cutting class

• Agriculture and geometric drawing class

• Quoiting club

Social Club

Around 1929/30 a social club was run by David Maclean. There were around 30 members who met in the hall on a Saturday night when they played cards, dominos, draughts and table games for the first half of the evening and danced for the second half. Jim Blease taught members country dancing. They had an annual summer trip to places such as St Andrews, Edinburgh or Loch Lomond. At some time a putting green was laid out at the Smiddy for members use. There is no record of how long the social club continued for at that time, but it is remembered that Mr. Blades, the schoolmaster, and Mr. Wm. Eccles, Pitcarles, revived it around 1940. A later social club, for those over the age of 13, met in the hall on a Wednesday night. They played cards, dominoes, darts and carpet bowling.

When the social club eventually folded Deirdre Rattray was president and Roy Reid was secretary. In 1980 all social club assets were transferred to the community association including £26.24 in cash. The bowling carpet was sold to the Drumtochty Tavern Bowling Club, Auchenblae, for £185.

[NOTE: Photo: 'An early picnic, possibly before 1920.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'This picture of a pre 1920s picnic shows Nellie Riddoch sitting on the left hand side in the front.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Another view of an early picnic before 1920.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Taken at a social club outing to St Andrews in 1949.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'It looks like the same outing to St Andrews.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Another group in the St Andrews outing.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'The same social club trip to St Andrews.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'St Andrews 1949.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Social outing around 1949.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Social club trip in 1951.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Social club outing in 1952.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Social outing.']

Girls Social Club

A girls' social club started in Arbuthnott sometime around the1920s. Membership was for girls who had just left school until the age of 30. Their first trip, organised by Mrs. Gray the schoolmaster's wife, was to Clatterin' Brig. The activities of the group appeared to be mainly singing. As led by Mrs. Gray, an able singer herself, they practised in the school for concerts in the hall. Mrs Gray's concerts always attracted a good audience, with folk walking and cycling from far and wide to attend.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Newspaper notice about a girls club outing to Edzell Castle from the early 1920s.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Girls social club outing.']

Burns Supper

The social club held an annual Burns supper. It is remembered that at early Burns suppers lemonade or tea was served. The following press notices give an impression of the support the Burns suppers enjoyed over the years.

[NOTE: Newspaper article from February 1907]

[NOTE: Newspaper article from January 1914]

At one time Willie Eccles, Pitcarles, was famous for his excellent job of addressing the haggis and his rendition of the Immortal Memory. The last Burns supper was held in 1972. Mrs. Karpinski gifted a framed photograph of Rabbie Burns, which was used each year for the supper, to the Grassic Gibbon Centre in 1990.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Amateur dramatics group taken in the 1930s.']

Amateur Dramatic Society

The first record of the amateur dramatic society can be found in the hall accounts as far back as 1921. Around 1934 it appears to have been particularly active; normally performing three act plays. It is remembered that in one play, a gentleman on stage with a fishing rod and line accidentally caught it on one of the lights resulting in the biggest laugh of the evening.

In February 1938 the 'Mearns Leader and Kincardineshire Mail' reported that the Arubuthnott Amateur Dramatic Society performed a delightful performance of Joe Corrie's three-act comedy Tullycairn. The story revolved around the fortunes of the Marshall family in the village of Tullycairn. Father Marshall, a typical rural Scot of the old regime, was a successful local carrier until the advent of motor traffic threatened to put his horses off the road and himself out of business.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Amateur dramatics performing 'The Drum of Dundarg' sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'A scene from 'The Drum of Dundarg'']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Alex Jeans in a scene from 'The Drum of Dundarg.'']

It is reported that while all the players pulled their weight in making a convincing performance, special credit was given to Mrs. A Finnie, Kirkton, who both produced and took the lead role and showed an excellent knowledge of stagecraft and real talent and versatility. Mr. A Finnie, Mr. A Jeans, Miss A Garden, Miss M Allan, Mr. A Reid, Mr. Watt, and Mrs. A Jeans ably executed other parts.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Andrew Reid, Mrs Jeans, Alex Finnie, Alex Jeans and Miss Allan in a scene from 'The Drum of Dundarg''.]

On 17th June 1952 the hall committee minutes show a sum of £11 10s was received from Mrs. Jeans, this being the balance from the defunct Arbuthnott Dramatic club.


Lady Dorothy Arbuthnott started the Arbuthnott branch of the R.N.L.I. Ladies Guild in 1949. Mrs. Rosabel Greig was a member for 42 years. Initially they met in Arbuthnott House and enjoyed tea and strawberry tarts. Fund raising was an annual fete in Arbuthnott House Gardens. The stalls were on open grass; teas outside in the gardens, a wheel of fortune, raffle and bottle stall were all added attractions. Nobody remembers a wet Lifeboat fete. The current president is the Hon. Jilly Arbuthnott.

[NOTE: Photo: 'RNLI coffee morning at Alpitty in 1983.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Kate Aitken at an Arbuthnott House fete before 1915.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'WRI presentation of a table lighter to Mrs Thorn on her departure from the community in 1973.']


The W.R.I. was founded in 1927/28 but was later disbanded. There is no record of when this was but, in the 1940s, Mrs Matheson from Milltown was president. She arranged treasure hunts in the countryside and other activities similar to those of the Rural today. It was resurrected in 1966 when the Kincardineshire Federation office bearers officiated at a meeting in Arbuthnott School. Mrs. Dow, the schoolmistress was elected president. Over the years members have enjoyed a varied programme of speakers, demonstrators, Christmas parties and outings. They still meet on the first Wednesday of each month in the hall. The current president Mrs. Wilma Armatage is also the Kincardineshire Federation President.

[NOTE: Photo: 'WRI 21st birthday in Arbuthnott hall in 1987; cutting the cake are Mrs Anderson and Mrs Bolton.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'WRI Christmas party']

[NOTE: Photo: 'WRI Christmas party']

Church of Scotland Women's Guild

The Women's Guild was started in 1907 and is still in existence today. Miss Archibald, New Biggin was the first president. Meetings were first held in the Manse and then in Arbuthnott House. Later meetings moved to the anteroom in the hall called the Guild room. The ladies now meet in the small committee room in the hall.

Men's Club

A club for men only is vaguely remembered but it did not appear to last long.

First Aid Classes

These were held at a farm. It is recorded that one year Mrs Reid came first in Home Nursing.

Arbuthnott Games

As far back as 1907 we can trace that the Arbuthnott Games were held annually in a field on Arbuthnott Estate - sometimes referred to as the deer park and sometimes as the laundry park. This was a family day with different competitions such as hammer throwing, tug of war, races, and pillow fights. An Aunt Sally was set up with a clay pipe in its mouth. For ½d you got a chance to throw a stick to knock the pipe out of its mouth. A dancing board was laid out and it cost ½d for a dance - Mr. Clark from Inverbervie supplied the music including a fiddler and a melodeon. The Arbuthnott dancing board was also borrowed for the Bervie Games until they raised money to buy their own. The hire charge was £1.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Spectators at the Arbuthnott Sports; possibly before the 1st World War.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott Sports tug of war; the single men team from the married men versus single men competition.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott Sports tug of war; married men versus single men competition. The married men team; Alex Black is the coach.']

Judging by the following letter published in the 'Stonehaven Journal' in August 1907 the games must have been very competitive.

[NOTE: Letter to the Editor]

In January 1927 a whist drive and dance was held in aid of the dancing board fund. Whist tickets were 2s, dance tickets were: gents' 1s, ladies' 6d. Ladies were charged less as they had less money. And in December that same year the annual Arbuthnott Games dance was held. Gents' tickets cost 2s 6d and ladies' 2s.

The following notice advertising the Games appeared in the 'Mearns Leader' in July 1914.

[NOTE: Newspaper article]

They were obviously a great success that year as the resulting report on the Games published in the 'Mearns Leader' on July 31, 1914, illustrates.

[NOTE: Newspaper article]

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott Games committee around 1935']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott Games committee before 1933']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott Games committee after 1933']

It is remembered that at the games in 1914 it was announced that the 1st World War had been declared. During the war the games were abandoned but, as can be seen by the following notice published in the 'Mearns Leader' on July 1915, a children's picnic continued.

[NOTE: Newspaper article]

[NOTE: Photo: 'Sandy Jeans, taken at the Arbuthnott Games in 1936.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Sunday School picnic in 1913, including Rev. Peter Dunn at the back.']


Many picnics are remembered in Arbuthnott but over the years there seems to be some confusion about school, Sunday school, social club, games and church picnics and whether they were separate events or all the same.

Church Picnic

In August 1907 the 'Stonehaven Journal' quotes that the Arbuthnott Parish Church Picnic was held in the deer park, Arbuthnott Estate. It says that it had the largest attendance since the picnic was inaugurated. The school children marched from the school. Entertainment for them was Aunt Sally, merry-go-round and skipping. The games started at 3pm, tea was served on the lawn park at 4pm. There was a 5 a-side football match, tug o' war, married versus single ladies tug o' war, long jump, throwing the hammer, races etc. Music was supplied by Mr. Watson's Quadrille Band from Bervie. Bervie Pipe Band provided several selections.

Poor House Picnic

In July 1917 the annual outing of the Kincardineshire combination poorhouse took place in Arbuthnott.

Silver Jubilee

In 1935 a bonfire was held at Pitcarles to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George VI. Old tyres were required to help make the bonfire burn and although they were to hand they were not placed on the bonfire until needed, just in case they were set alight too early.

Coronation Picnic

When our present Queen was crowned in 1953 a picnic was organised in the field opposite the East Lodge. However it turned out to be a cold wet day and instead of the picnic a party was held in the hall. Children in the parish were each given a Coronation mug, and a bonfire with fireworks was lit at night. There may possibly have also been a dance at night.

School Picnics

1922 - the school picnic was held in the laundry park on Arbuthnott Estate. Tea was to be in the laundry if it was wet. Each child received a bag of pieces, which included a Paris bun.

1949 - the school went to St. Cyrus.

1953 - they travelled to Arbroath where they boiled their own urn for tea. Mrs Jean Harris was a great help with this. A strict eye had to be kept on the boys because of the proximity of the sea and the rocks.

1972 - the last school picnic took place. Because it was a special one they went to Edinburgh Zoo. This used up the last of the picnic fund.

Halloween Party

Some remember attending Halloween parties with apple dooking and treacle scones.


Around the 1930s a number of people remember going to the pictures in Inverbervie to see the serials. Seats cost 3d or 1/-. The first house was between 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. then the second between 8.30 p.m. - 10.30 p.m. Chips were often purchased after the 'pictures'. At that time there was a regular bus service from Laurencekirk to Inverbervie through Arbuthnott. And because the shops in Inverbervie stayed open late on Saturday night till about 9.30 p.m. folk often did their shopping, then went the second house at the pictures.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Wedding at the Mill House in 1913.']

Chapter 3

High Days and Holidays


Before the 1st World War there were few church weddings as most working class folk got married at home or in the Manse. Weddings took place in the late afternoon after the farm chores were finished. The bride sometimes wore a very plain long white dress, with long sleeves and high neckline. A veil with a headdress made from wax flowers was also worn to hold the veil in place; the dress could also be a pale colour such as green or blue. If a traditional wedding dress was not worn the bride would wear something that could be used again - a suit or smart dress, often grey, with a spray of flowers on the lapel. Men often wore a blue serge suit with black shoes; in the early 1900s they also wore a bowler hat.

Before a couple could be married in church their banns had to be read out to the church congregation for three consecutive Sundays. It was subsequently reduced to one Sunday and the practice was finally discontinued in 1977. It was deemed to be bad luck to be present in church when your banns were being read. Today proclamations of marriage are displayed outside the Registrar's office in Bervie.

For good luck, on a night before the wedding, the groom's friends would 'blacken' him with treacle and flour. This was called the 'feet washing'; farm lads were often dumped in the horse trough. If you stayed in the bothy it could happen in the middle of the night.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Wedding photograph from around 1900. The bride is Jane Morrison and the groom is Donald Jeans.]

When the couple came out from the wedding ceremony, friends and relations, for good luck, threw dried peas and rice over them; this was before the advent of confetti. Later rose petals and confetti were also used. The bride's father threw a handful of pennies for the bairns to pickup: this was known as the 'poor out' or 'scramble'. If the wedding took place in the Manse, guests did not attend; only the couple and their two witnesses were present. If guests were invited they attended the whole wedding; there were no evening invitations as today.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Wedding photograph from around 1916; the bride is Jean Middleton and the groom Mr Ramsay. They later emigrated to Alaska.]

[NOTE: Photo: 'Wedding at Keith Bank, Stonehaven on 1st September 1926.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Receipt for the wedding reception at Keith Bank on 1st September 1926.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Receipt for wedding cake purchased from Kenway's Stonehaven.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Receipt for whisky, port and sherry for the wedding from Robert Ross, Grocer and Wine Merchant, Stonehaven.']

Wedding receptions were mainly in the bride's parents' house, sometimes the local hall and occasionally in a hotel. When the reception was in the hall, folk often organised their own food and had a proper sit down meal, or Bannerman's arranged the catering. It is remembered that Tommy Goodfellow's band from Bervie played at weddings. The cost in 1912 for hiring the hall for a wedding was 10/-. Normally the only decoration in the hall was lanterns on the tables. With receptions at home, the furniture was shifted back and you had a dance in the house with music usually provided by an accordion. Guests also took turns to entertain. During the 1920s, set meals began to take place. The meal varied a bit but a selection from the following was usually provided:

Steak pie
Boiled ham
Oatcakes and cheese
Tattie scones
Clootie dumpling

To toast the bride and groom, whisky was usually available for the men and sherry or port for the ladies. Speeches were much the same as today. Not all weddings had a cake. If there was one it would have consisted of a fruitcake with icing on top. On some occasions the cake would be bought from the bakers in Bervie.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Wedding photo from 1948']

Couples did not have a honeymoon; if they were lucky they had one night away, usually at a relative's. A trick played on newly weds was to stuff a sack in the top of the lum so that the fire smoked. Often couples had to live with their parents until they managed to find a home of their own.

[NOTE: Photo: '1908 advert for James Couper, baker, Inverbervie.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Golden wedding anniversary photograph of Mr and Mrs Arch Greig, the Lodge, Arbuthnott, who were married on 11th December 1914.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Golden wedding anniversary photograph of Mr and Mrs Clark who lived at one time at Hillhead and Whitefield, Arbuthnott.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Notice of diamond wedding anniversary that appeared in 'The Scotsman' in 1938.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Golden wedding anniversary photograph of Mr and Mrs William Eccles, Pitcarles.']

Christmas Day

Christmas day was not a farm holiday until the 1960s. Before the early 1940s, Santa stockings were hung up at Hogmanay instead of Christmas Eve, because New Year's Day was a holiday. In your stocking you found an apple, an orange, a 'penny' and anything small enough to fit into the stocking. Items were mainly bought from Woolworth's; the most expensive cost around 6d. Mothers made rag dolls which children adored and remembered fondly well into adulthood.

From around 1920, Lady Dorothy Arbuthnott gave a Christmas party in the hall in the afternoon when every child in the parish received a present from under the tree; some remember receiving beads or a small silk purse. Santa was Jack, the 14th Viscount of Arbuthnott. The children enjoyed the games and all the little extras they received, and the adults joined in the fun. Mrs Anderson from Pitcarles used to play the piano and the food included cookies filled with cream and strawberry jam, a Paris bun and sometimes a tall queen cake called a 'sair headie'.

For a special treat when the school broke up on the Friday before Christmas, it is recalled that the school cleaner made a huge dumpling. Mrs Bolton did this in the 1950s. She is also remembered for taking the school children swimming.

One Christmas party that lasted all day is remembered, and John Watson, Mosshead remembers going to a party with friends, and while walking to the house, talking about all the goodies like dumpling and cakes they should expect to be given: only when they arrived, all there was to eat was porridge and a duck egg! At another Christmas Party, Dod Scorgie is remembered to have sang "Play these angel harps for me".

New Year - Hogmanay

[NOTE: Photo: 'Advertisement for John Begg whisky.']

From around the 1900s until the 1st World War a typical New Year's Day meal would be:

• Broth - made with barley, neeps, carrots, kale and split peas

• Chicken stuffed with oatmeal, onion and suet

• Clootie Dumpling with milk

By 1936 one pound a week was an average farm wage therefore New Year celebrations were not lavish. On New Year's Eve, neighbours gathered together and a shot was fired into the air at midnight. First footing friends and neighbours was common practice to wish them luck and toast the New Year; usually your dram was served in small 'toddy' glass. The first person to visit after midnight brought a piece of coal for good luck. You returned to work on the 2nd of January.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Advertisement for John Begg whisky.']


Before the 1st World War, unless absolutely necessary, at harvest time or to feed stock, you did not work on a Sunday and the only recreation permitted was a very decorous walk with the family. You were not allowed to play, sing or dance because it was a religious day. Cattleman had one Sunday off per month and often the farmer fed the cattle that day himself.

Chapter 4

Hobbies, Toys and Games


Cattie's Tail

Using an empty sewing reel, an odd number of small nails were tapped in round hole at one end. Wool was wound round the nails with the end hanging down through the hole. Using a crochet hook, and working on one nail at a time, you pulled the bottom round of wool over the top round and also the nail. This produced a tail, which came through the hole in the middle. When the tail was long enough it would be stitched into mats, slippers or used as a trimming for toys, or in place of a ribbon.


Shapes or pictures were cut out of magazines and glued onto surfaces for decoration; it was often varnished over the top.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Playing pitch n' put at the Smiddy in 1948.']


To make a pom-pom you cut rounds of thin card the same size and cut a hole in the middle of them. You placed them back-to-back, and oddments of wool were wound round the border of card until the hole was filled. The wool was then carefully snipped at the outside edge between the cards. You then eased the cards apart and tied a piece of wool tightly between them around the cut strands. The cards were then removed and any long ends of wool trimmed. These were popular toys for babies and kittens as well as decoration for clothing.


A design or picture was burnt into wood for decoration.

Fret work

This was another craft using wood, and could be used for decorative purposes. Small pieces were cut out of a piece of wood to leave a lacy effect.

Rag rugs

A hessian sack, usually previously used for sugar, flour or potatoes, was stretched onto a wood frame and nailed into place. Strips of cut up rags from old coats and dresses was then worked into the hessian to form the pile. It was also possible to buy long bunches of threads from the mill called 'thumbs' to make the pile. A hook made out of a fork was used to pull the loops of rags or threads through to the right side. Very often a picture would be drawn onto the sacking first and the rags worked to follow the pattern; some of the finished rugs were very colourful and a real work of art. When the picture was complete a backing made with another sack or a meal bag finished the rug. A 'cleekit' rug was another name given to a rag rug.


Few toys are remembered except for the following; and games played seemed to be at certain times of the year but folk remember many playground and party games.

Skipping rope - these always made an appearance in the springtime.

Marbles or bools - they were originally made out of clay or stone, not glass as today. The big one was called a peever but this was later changed to a glassie. Another name used was 'clay daisies'.

Peeries - spinning top made out of empty wooden thread reels. The reel was cut in half and shaped. The whip was a piece of stick with a shoelace or piece of string fixed to one end.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Little boy playing on a toy horse around the time of the 1st World War.']

Whistle - made out of rowan twigs.

Gird (hoop and cleek) - a metal hoop was made to run along the road by using a small piece of stick. The trick was to hit it at the right angle to keep it spinning. The hoop was sometimes made at the blacksmiths, but a bicycle wheel did the same job. It was said that a child could walk much further and faster turning a gird than without one.

Cartie - these were basically a box on wheels and a treasured possession. Pram wheels were the usual wheels used and were quite hard to come by as prams had to last many babies.

Peashooter - made from hemlock: rowanberries were used for ammunition.

Paper kite

Boat - made out of an old washtub.

Dolls - some were rag dolls, usually home made, others were china and very fragile. If you were lucky enough to have a china doll you were often only allowed to play with it on a Sunday afternoon and that was only sitting still, nursing it.

Teddy bear - homemade.

Wooden ducks - their wings were made to move as if in flight when you pushed them along.

Monkey on a string - their arms and legs moved.

Musical top - spinning top.

Stilts - these were homemade from wood and quite common.

Jigsaws - were only remembered from 1935 but were not very common.

Catapult - used mainly by boys and made out of a piece of wood and strips of rubber tubing.

Train set - spring operated.


Sledge - homemade.

Seesaw - rhymes: Seesaw Marjory Daw and Coup the Ladle.

Painting - remembered after 1930 but not very common. Mainly used in school where each child had a drawing book, which was filled with watercolour pictures.

Snares - boys set snares to catch rabbits.

Stubble - making stacks with straw stubble after harvest.

Plasticine - used in school and always black.

Rattles - made out of an empty brasso tin with stones in it.

Hobby horse - homemade with a wheel at the end; they were very popular.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott football team.']


Beddies - played mainly by girls. Also known as hopscotch. A peever - a flat stone or slate - was thrown and you had to hop and jump to where it landed.

Free across - a catching game played with two lines of people.

Kick the can



Hoosies - using a dyke to put pretend utensils on and docken leaves for tea.

Guddling - catching fish with your bare hands in the burn. The burns were cleaner in those days and you spent a lot of time playing in the water.

Fishing - in the burn with heel rings from tackety boots. One person remembers catching fish with a piece of string on the end of a stick with a bent pin for a hook. He was supposed to be gathering sticks to light the fire at the time.

Diablo - two sticks joined with a piece of fine string about two foot long. A big wooden reel was balanced on the string and made to travel along it. Skilful operators could throw the reel up in the air and catch it again on the string and it still kept spinning.


Hide and seek - popular with both boys and girls.

Spin the saucer

Cards - Happy Families, 3 and Pick the Pack, Snap. Boys also played Pontoon. Neighbours visited each other in the evenings to play knock out whist.

Board games - Ludo, Draughts, Snakes and Ladders, Bagatelle, Dominos, Hoop-la.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School five a side football team in 1971.']

Ball Games

Trebles against a wall - throwing three balls against a wall one after the other, and keeping them going.

Clappie, Clappie

Bounce a ball - throwing the ball against a wall and shouting out a name, the person whose name was shouted had to try and catch the ball.

1, 2, 3, a leerie
One, two, three a Leerie
I spy Mrs Peerie
Sitting on her bumble eerie,
Eating chocolate babies (or soldiers).

Skipping games

My Mother said - Dad's Dinner...
My Mother said - I shouldna play with the gypsies in the woods

I'm a Girl Guide dressed in blue
See how many actions I can do -
Stand at ease and bend my knees
Salute to the King and bow to the Queen,
Turn my back on the brave sailor boy.

Singing games

I sent a letter to my love - the players sat in a circle on the ground and sang "I sent a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it." The person that was "IT" went round the outside of the circle and when it came to the word 'dropped' they dropped a hankie behind someone in the circle and that person had to chase the first one and try and catch them. The first person had to try and get right round the circle and into the middle by the gap left by the second runner. If the first runner made it without being caught they got to sit down and the second person became "IT". If they were caught they had to have a second turn.

In and out the windows. - This game was played standing in a circle with hands joined and held at head height. The song - "In and out the windows, in and out the windows, in and out the windows, as we have done before," was sung by everyone. One person danced back and forward through the arches made by the hands. When the song finished they stood behind the nearest person and the song changed to - "Pitter pitter patter on their shoulders, pitty pitty patter on their shoulders, pitty pitty patter on their shoulders as we have done before." The person who was in the circle then became the leader and the previous leader held onto the new leader. This was repeated until everybody was in the line.

The wind blows high

The wind, the wind, the wind blows high,
The rain comes dashing from the sky,
(Girl's name) says she'll die
For her love in the rolling sky,
(Boy's name) says he loves her,
All the boys are fighting for her,
She has lovers, one, two, three,
Pray tell me who they be.

Second Version -

The wind, the wind, the wind blows high,
The rain comes lashing from the sky,
(Girl's name) says she'll die
For her lover with the roving eye,
She is handsome, she is pretty,
She is the girl from the golden city
She has lovers one, two, three,
Pray tell me who they be.

(This girl then picks a boy to go into the centre with her.)

The farmer's in his den (dell)

Ring a ring a roses

Here we go round the mulberry bush

Here we come gathering nuts in May

The good ship sails through the ellie allie oh

Hoist the green flag - this was a game for boys and girls.

Party Games

Pass the Parcel - the parcel had layers of paper and when the music stopped you undid a layer. When the music started again you started passing again. The one left holding the prize at the end was the winner.

Do you know the muffin man? - two lines of players faced each other, one line danced forward towards the other line singing the first line of the song, then backwards on the second line. The second line danced the next two lines and so on until the end of the song.

Simple Simon says

The Grand Old Duke of York

Pop goes the weasel

Jolly miller

Rhymes and Sayings

A rhyme for calculating when Easter Sunday would fall:

First came Candlemas
Then the new meen
First Tyesday after that that's Fastern's Een.
That meen oot and the next meen fu'
The next Sunday after that, that's Pace true.

Other Childhood Pastimes

Cycling - was also popular with those lucky enough to have a bike.

Making daisy chains - linking daisy heads together until long enough to make a necklace or bracelet.

The buttercup test - holding a buttercup under your friend's chin: if you saw a yellow reflection, you told them they liked butter.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Andy Watt and Jessie Wylie playing pitch n' put at the Smiddy.']

Chapter 5

Newspaper Gleanings

The following news items have been found in past copies of newspapers held in Stonehaven Library.

[NOTE: News articles from Stonehaven Journal]

[NOTE: Photo: 'obituary to Mr Joseph Eaddie who lived at the Bamph, Arbuthnott. A newspaper cutting found amongst Nellie Riddoch's photographs.']

[NOTE: News articles from Mearns Leader and Kincardineshire Mail]

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott School Board newspaper notice, 1915.']

[NOTE: News articles from Kincardineshire Observer]

[NOTE: Photo: 'Notice for the Scottish Week - War Savings Certificates. 1918.']

Chapter 6

Individual Reminiscences

Reminiscences of Arbuthnott

By Mrs. Anna Karpinski

In 1977, the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, we not only celebrated that, but it was also when there was a general clan gathering all over Scotland. People with the Arbuthnott name or connections came from all over the world to their 'ancestral home'. There was a grand rally on the Sunday at the Home Farm, which was addressed by Lord Arbuthnott who kindly provided 'first day covers'. The visitors took full advantage of this, as there was a new set of stamps issued by the Post Office marking the Queen's Jubilee. Most people wanted the whole set on their envelopes, and, as our small Post Office had obtained special permission to hand stamp the mail we had the busiest week in the twenty years we were in the Post Office. We sent out over five hundred pieces of mail.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Anna Karpinski.']

At the same time we contacted the craft workers in the area and sold examples of their work. There were paintings, copper and brass works, sewn articles including tartan souvenirs, leatherwork and various odds and ends.

The children in the electoral district all received mugs from the Community Association. In all, about 105 children from pre-birth to the seniors at the High School received one. The mugs were made at Montrose Pottery.

An elderly gentleman, who lived by himself, used to come in and tell me that he never had any bother with the flies in the summertime, so I asked him if he used sticky flypapers. "No" he replied, "I just don't kill the spiders and they eat up all the flies!"


As told by Mrs. Margaret Aitken (nee Mutch)

Mrs Aitken was born in 1903. Her father was gamekeeper to Lord Arbuthnott and they lived at the Bamph Farm. He reared pheasants - clocking hens sat on the eggs in coops with individual runs. These were surrounded with a trip wire, which alerted Mr. Mutch at his home if there were poachers around.

They later moved to Bamph Croft. The corn was milled by a big white horse called Meg walking round and round in a circle. When the horse died Rev. Peter Dunn helped him construct a mill wheel to run the mill from the burn.

Mrs Aitken started at Arbuthnott School when she was 6 years old. Normally you started school at 5, but as she had a long way to walk from the Bamph she was allowed an extra year at home provided that her father taught her the alphabet. His version went: A for Alex, B for Bob, C for Charlie and D for Dod.

At school she remembers girls being taught sewing and knitting. Boys did the school garden. All did gym. If pupils wanted to go to the Mackie, the Rev. Peter Dunn took them from 9a.m. till 9-30a.m. for Algebra and French.

A girl from Alpitty died after eating broom pods; she had just started school and was eating broom on the way home. All the children had to take a penny for a wreath and stood at the top of the road to the church as the cortege passed.

Mr. Mutch, Mrs Aitken's father, was the school whipper-in and was scared of some of the mothers. On one occasion Mrs Aitken was sent, from Bamph Croft to the Stepps near Whitefield, with a letter from the dominie asking why a child was not at school.

When she was at school, another little girl died who stayed at the Milltown Cottages. Her mother had died when she was very young. She was holding sticks while her sister chopped them and her finger was chopped off. She died shortly afterwards but Mrs Aitken was not sure if she died from an infection from the cut or a broken heart from her mother's death. Again the children went to the top of the road to watch the funeral procession.

She also remembers a teacher who died. She had gone home to Peterhead and had used carbolic jelly to soothe toothache and had swallowed some.

Mrs Aitken remembers having a great day off the school to go to the Bamph Hill to gather sphagnum moss for use on wounds during the 1st World War.

She left school at 14 and went to be maid to the dominie's wife. She was paid £2 per month.

When her brother was due to be born, her father cycled to Bervie to get Dr. Aymer but he had been on a picnic a day or two before, got a thorn in his hand so had gone to Montrose to have it dressed. He then cycled back home to let her mother know what was happening. Then he cycled to Auchenblae for Dr. Fairweather but he had gone to a confinement in Fettercairn. The baby was born safely before medical help arrived.

She married George Aitken at Bamph Croft. They had sandwiches at their reception and Mrs Aitken wore a grey silky frock. The bridegroom's brother and wife cycled from Netherley to attend the wedding and stayed the night.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Margaret Aitken']


By Mr. William Adams, Montgoldrum

When I started school in 1924 there were approximately 30 pupils who travelled from this side of the hill to the school. They came from the Laes; Cluseburn; Bloomfield; Uppercraighill; Gobbs; Reisk Croft; Hareden; Little Wairds; Burnside and us at Mongoldrum.

The teachers were Miss Archibald from Cluseburn, Miss Wishart and the Dominie was Mr. Gray.

Mr. Carson took over as Dominie from Mr. Gray. Carson always had a hip flask in his pocket and would come into the school straight from the pub. When this happened the best thing to do was to keep your head down and not look at him because if you did make eye contact you got the strap.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mr William Adams.']

Mr. and Mrs. Carson often got the bus to Bervie where they got drunk and Nom Roberts and other passengers would help them off the bus and leave them propped up at their garden gate. Nom and the others then got back on the bus and continued their journey.

Money was raised by means of a play to get funds for an outing to the beach. Pupils who did not have a part in the play were put in the chorus and those who could not sing were told to just stand there. The sum of £24 was raised for the summer outing. Carson was never arranging it and some of the parents approached him about it and the outing did eventually go ahead. The children were excited at the thought of going to Montrose or Aberdeen but ended up at St. Cyrus Beach where we got a potted heid sandwich, and if there is one thing I didna like, it was a potted heid sandwich. At the Arbuthnott Games we got a bap, a cake and a biscuit but I don't know who funded that.

Before the summer we would get P.E. The day before the instructor came we went out for practice. We were told to get our arms up, forward stretch, face right, face left etc. It took some practice as most pupils did not know their right from left and arms and legs were going everywhere with many pupils ending up face to face!

Once on November 28th I was off school. We were still picking tatties and the holidays were over. The Strachan's from Burnnies were also there along with some others. There was sleet and very cold. In the morning the wheeper-in came to see why we were not at school and was surprised to find us working. The wheeper-in was Mr. Mutch who went round on his motorbike. He was also the gravedigger. I was between nine and ten at the time.

A son of Carson died of scarlet fever and we had to walk down to the church for the funeral. Carson suffered bouts of malaria.

Farming has changed a lot; in the 1920s there were about 30 farm servants, excluding the farmer and his family, working on farms bordered Montgoldrum and today, at the most, the same farms have a total of two. When I started school, Milltown had the first tractor that I saw. He had harrows and grubbers but no plough.

I remember the Laird's fake beard one Christmas catching fire as he handed out the presents at the Christmas Party. There were lots of candles and as he stretched for a present his beard touched a candle. I think the presents came from Selfridges in London.

The worst winter I remember was in 1946. We had heavy snow for weeks. Bannerman's van was the first van to visit in six weeks. Peter Jennings from Greenden, Doug Fowlie, fee'd at Montgoldrum, and me went to Bervie to get supplies. Jennings had a sledge with him, which was great for him on the downhill slopes. There was so much snow that you could walk from Montgoldrum straight to the Laes across the fences and posts as they were buried deep with snow. On our journey we sat on top of a telegraph pole in the den of Pitcarles. Jennings had an easy sort of journey there, but was so exhausted from haul ing his sledge back up the slopes that he needed help; he never took his sledge along again.

Arbuthnott from 1913

By Mrs Molly Middleton (Nee Cushnie)

My first memory was October 1913 when we arrived at Bervie Station from London to be met by my grandfather, the horse and box cart, our means of transport to the Mill of Arbuthnott. What a contrast, no running water and dry toilets. Water was carried from a dip well at the foot of Mutch's brae. At that time the school was closed because of an outbreak of scarlet fever. On my first day at school I was presented with a free schoolbag, the last girl's one gifted by Coats of Paisley.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Molly Middleton.']

On 4th August 1914, the Arbuthnott Games day, it was announced, over a horn, that we were at war with Germany. Being eight years old I was scared stiff. At school we were asked to knit scarves, socks and body belts for the soldiers. On tying up our parcels the teacher, Miss Archibald, asked us to put our names and addresses along with a small gift such as soap, chocolate etc. Later I received a letter from a J. Clark.

When war finished, I remember the two minutes' silence and Hon. Miss Arbuthnott gave us each an enamel brooch with the names of the principal battles.

Previous to 1918 we had our school picnic in the Milltown park given by Mr. Eddie who was one of the school board at that time.

The 7th July 1916 saw a great spate of the Bervie river, the haughs were flooded from side to side. Tatties, neeps and crops were washed away and we couldn't get our cows home for milking. I also remember the great frost when the Bervie was frozen solid from side to side and the Minister, Mr. Peter Dunn, slid right up and down the middle below the bridge.

We mustn't forget old Mr. Reid, Putty as he was called. A cobbler to trade and he mended the boots. In those days the soles were filled with tackets but he had an awful yabber. He was found dead in his workshop in the act of mending. His cottage was in the wood between the kirk and the school. After him old Mary Connon got the cottage where she fostered children. One was Molly Connon who, after Mary's death, went to live with the Mitchell's of Bloomfield.

In 1920 all the farms were put up for sale and only left a few on the Estate. Montgoldrum and Millplough are still in the same families. Then came the depression when the farmers were going broke. It was lean times then until the Second World War.

The Post Office was at Midgeloch and when the old couple, Rainbird, died it was transferred to Arbuthnott Shop where it is now. A bakers and grocers van operated from there also.

I drove milk to Bervie and Gourdon and sold it at 3d the pint, measured out of jugs and cans.

There was six maids at the big house, also a coachman, and three gamekeepers and three gardeners. After a big shoot the game was driven to Bervie station by spring cart and horse.


Mrs Blair-Imrie, Little Pleasance, Edzell.

One morning in the early 1930s, while tidying up at the tennis court at Arbuthnott, the Lord Arbuthnott of that time found he had lost his signet ring. The court was down by the Bervie so the grass round it was very rough. There were three or four of us there including the present Lord Arbuthnott, then a boy of about ten years old. A reward of a ten-shilling note was offered to the finder, probably the equivalent of about £30 to day.

For quite two hours we searched on a hot summer morning, feeling that it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Suddenly there appeared on the scene a small girl, Mary Oxley, the present Lady Arbuthnott, who was staying with her Aunt at Parkside Cottage.

"What are you doing?" she said.

"Looking for a ring," we replied, rather irritably. We were hot and tired.

Mary stooped down.

"Is this it?" she asked, holding up a round gold object.

Quite unbelievably, she had walked right on to it. Rather embarrassed, Lord Arbuthnott handed her the ten-shilling note, and I can still see the rueful smile on the face of the small boy.

Mary however returned from where she had come, not only with her fortuitous gains, but also having had what may well have been her first sighting of her future husband.

Arbuthnott 1900 -1960

By The Viscount of Arbuthnott

As a boy in the early 1930s I remember hearing the grown-ups talking and laughing about a recently published book "Sunset Song". They were commenting particularly about what the author had said about Arbuthnott House (Kinraddie) and the family who owned it. Jack Arbuthnott, who my father would succeed, and the rest of the family present that evening held the view that Leslie Mitchell was not far out in his account of the family history and the circumstances in which the family fortunes had plunged so low after the turn of the century. There was a lot more talk but the comments I have made arise from what I heard and remember and I have tried to record some of them.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Lord Arbuthnott.']

Due to inefficiency and to legal complications with the eleventh Viscount being unfit to run the Estate there had not been any effective management during the years before the 1st World War. There had been an intention to sell as early as 1908 and a sale eventually did take place in 1920. At that time the property extended to some 12,000 acres, the bulk of which was in the parish but there was, within this total, the lands at Fordoun amounting to 3,000 acres.

The "Mansion House Lot" was bought back at the end of the sale so that when Jack Arbuthnott became the Laird in 1920 he and his wife Dorothy took on Arbuthnott House and the surrounding farms and woodland which were partly tenanted and partly in hand. The house was close to being derelict, the gardens were massively overgrown and the woodlands either recently felled or wild and unproductive.

They were to spend the next 40 years bringing order out of chaos and in rebuilding the family reputation. They both threw themselves into public life at the same time as they tackled the difficulties at home, Jack became Lord Lieutenant of Kincardineshire in 1925 and was the convener of the County Council from 1935-1960. Dorothy took a lead in the Red Cross and started the Bervie and District Women's Lifeboat Guild in 1949. Both of them were hard working in many other aspects of public life in the county and further afield. Their work for Kincardineshire during the wartime years was outstanding. Perhaps the greatest personal achievement of Lady Dorothy was the regeneration of Arbuthnott House Gardens. Sadly they never had any children of their own but the house was usually full of young people from both sides of the family.

The distribution of the estate land, apart from the Home Farm, lay between the tenanted farms of Townhead (with upper and lower Whitefield), the Milltown Farm, Pitcarles, and the Kirkton. There was also the Mutch family croft across the river from the Kirk and that of Herculeshaugh farmed by the Roberts. By 1960 the Mutch's had left the district, except for Ina who lived at Parkneuk, and the other tenancies were held by Ernie Reid (Townhead), Duncan Mathieson (Milltown), Willie Eccles (Pitcarles), Bill Cameron (Kirkton) and Norman Roberts (Herculeshaugh).

Double death duties arose on the estate after the early death of General Keith Arbuthnott in 1966, only 6 years after his cousin Jack had died. This meant further sales and re-organisation including a redistribution of acreages. After Milltown and Kirkton were vacated by their tenants, Townhead (less Upper and Lower Whitefield), was bought by George Barclay; and Willie Eccles bought Pitcarles. There had been a rearrangement of fields between the Home farm, Pitcarles and Kirkton, leaving them as they are to-day. Eventually Herculeshaugh was amalgamated with Townhead.

Growing up in Arbuthnott in the 30s and 40s

By Doreen M. Black (Nee jeans)

I was born at Oldcake Cottage in 1936. My grandparents lived in the farmhouse. We moved to the Deep Farm in 1940. My Granny Dewar sat on a chair, which was tied onto the cart to flit there. I also remember that there was a box of cats.

I used to spend hours sitting on the mudguard of my Dad's Case tractor while he worked on the land.

I started school in 1941. We all walked there and I always had company, as there were three Taylor children in the Deep cottage. If it was a wet morning and there were lots of black snails on the road, we used to touch their horns, which they drew into their heads, and we had to wait until they put them out again. We used to eat birdies peas and sourocks, and in hot weather we would burst tar bubbles on the road.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Doreen Black.']

Our teacher, Miss Allan, came from Laurencekirk and we were often about Parkneuk when she passed so we thought that we were going to be late for school so had to run the rest of the way. Mr. Blades was the Dominie when I started school. I spent most of the day filling a page with fenceposts i.e. the number '1'. I did have a slate and a soft slate pencil and a little tin with a damp sponge in it for cleaning the slate. We learnt a lot of hymns especially ones like "God Bless our native land" and "Lord while for all mankind we pray".

Lady Dorothy Arbuthnott came to present prizes at prize giving day and we all got a little packet of Maltesers.

After school and during the holidays we played the usual games of tig, kick the can, and hide and seek. There were lots of spuggies on the farm so we tried to catch them by balancing a tattie riddle on a stick tied to a long string. Some corn was put under the riddle, we took the end of the string and hid in a hen house. Lots of spuggies came to eat the corn but we never caught any.

We also tried to catch wild duck in the winter by sticking a drainpipe upright in the snow, flattening the middle bit and putting corn in the bottom. The duck was supposed to lean over and fall in trapping its wings so it couldn't get out. Again no luck!

My brother and a cousin used to set up a tent and build a fire. They once cooked a crow wrapped in mud. When the mud was removed, the feathers also came off. My younger cousin and I were made to taste a bit of this crow!

We also played Tarzan by tying a rope to the rafters with a loop at the bottom. We went up to the loft and swung out into space.

I developed jaundice when I was about seven. As we had no phone, mum asked the postie to contact the doctor in Auchenblae. I never spoke to the postie again!

On another occasion, the doctor came to see me and I was up a tree and would not come down.

If I had been given a row for misbehaving, I used to get a cat and go up a tree and tell the cat all my troubles.

I was going to a fancy dress parade in Laurencekirk as Dick Whittington's cat but dad could not take me, as a cow was having problems calving and he had to get the vet. After he had finished, Mac the vet, Callum McLennan, said he would take me to Laurencekirk but we would have to go to Pitcarles first. The fancy dress parade was long past before we got to Laurencekirk.

During the 2nd World War, when the air raid siren sounded in Bervie we had to hide under our desks. Once the war was over, we helped to scrape off the netting that had been glued to the school windows to prevent them from breaking.

We moved to Drumyocher in 1944. There used to be a road from Drumyocher to Alpity cottage. I went that way and cycled to Drumlithie to have piano lessons from Mrs Jolly.

Hawthorn Cottage was built for my grandparents' retirement and I used to stay with them during the week in the wintertime as I cycled to Fordoun to catch the train to the Mackie Academy. If the roads were bad my grandfather used to walk to Fordoun with me.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s

By Jean Strachan (Nee Coutts)

When we moved to Arbuthnott we went to live at the Smiddy as my dad, Henry was going to work as a shepherd for Ernie Reid at Townhead. The first day we arrived, our mother Minnie took my brother Stan and myself along to Mrs Blease's shoppie for a 3d bottle of pop. There were flagstones on the floor and it was very dark and smelled of cheese because of the large round cheese, covered in muslin, which Mrs Blease always kept in the corner. She would slice off a wedge with a cheese wire and wrap it in greaseproof paper for customers. There was a meat slicer on the counter for cutting frying ham and boiled ham. Mrs Blease always had a piece of ham when she sliced some for a customer and I used to think she must be every fond of it but I think she was just checking to see if it was still fresh. She used to weigh out sugar and put it in brown paper bags tied up with string and you could buy loose rich tea biscuits. There were jars of sweeties at the back of the counter filled with aniseed balls, 4 for an old penny, lollipops, barley sugar sticks and lucky tatties. Jim Blease had the butcher's shop at the other end and also came round in a van. At New Year he collected everybody's enamel pie dishes and made steak pies in them. Lots of vans came round as not many people had cars. There were still a few buses travelling through Arbuthnott during the week as well.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Jean Strachan']

We went to Arbuthnott School and Mrs Johnston was the headmistress at that time. She was very religious, because her late husband had been a Minister, and we used to have Bible readings and hymns every morning before lessons. She was very strict and kept a thick leather strap in her desk drawer to use on anyone who misbehaved. There was a high wall down the middle of the playground to separate the boys and the girls. I didn't like this because it was the first time I had been separated from my twin brother. In the summer the school picnic was held at Montrose beach, where we got a hot sausage roll, a bag of cakes and a bottle of lemonade. The bus was decorated with coloured paper streamers and balloons when we started off but by the time we returned home most of them had blown away. You always knew when a picnic bus had gone past because of the streamers decorating the fences at the sides of the road. At Christmas, Lady Arbuthnott held a children's party in the hall and Chris Bolton, the head gardener at the Big House, was Santa.

Mr. Moore was the minister and wore thick glasses, as he was very short sighted. He went everywhere on his bicycle and one day when he had been visiting us he went outside and saw two old bike tyres my brother had propped up against the wall. He said, "Is that my bike over there?"

We used to play outside all the time and on the road a lot as there wasn't much traffic and you could hear a car coming from a good distance away. There always seemed to be heavy falls of snow in the winter, with huge drifts piled up at the sides of the road for days on end, but lots of sun in the summer.

[NOTE: Newspaper article from 'Mearns Leader']

Miscellaneous memories from early meetings

When my son was aged 3-4, he walked to see his granny at lower Whitefield, he took a 'piece' and juice and sat at the roadside for his 'piece' then carried on to his granny's. His dad used to pick him up at lunchtime in the Land Rover. On one particular day he sat outside his granny's house waiting for his dad - well he forgot to pick him up and lo and behold he was stranded; but help was at hand - the postie picked him up and delivered him safely to his own home, a much relieved wee boy.
Mrs Dorothy Fowlie

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Dorothy Fowlie']

I used to stay at Parkside with my aunt, Miss Rose Oxley, When my aunt went down to have dinner at Arbuthnott House, Maggie, who lived in the other part of the house, 60 years ago, used to 'sit-in' while Miss Oxley was away. I can remember her quite an old lady then, coming in to see if I was awake with a hurricane storm lantern. I always pretended to be asleep.
Lady Arbuthnott

[NOTE: Photo: 'Lady Arbuthnott]

I remember going out on very cold February days with the keeper, Jimmy Allison, to ferret the sides of the Steps Road on the Home Farm. He always put a net over each hole before he put a ferret in and when the rabbits began to run, you heard a rumble like an underground train in the hole before a rabbit burst out and into a net. He sometimes left a hole un-netted so that I could have the chance of a shot at a bolting rabbit with my gun but my fingers were actually too cold to pull the trigger! Lord Arbuthnott

I'll never forget the night not long after we came to Alpitty. It was wintertime and our Tilley lamp in the kitchen hung from a hook in the middle of the roof. At that time we had a live-in maid who had instructions to turn down the lamp before she went to bed. By mistake, she had turned it up instead and when we came through to the kitchen the place was thick with smoke and flames coming from the lamp. My husband grabbed hold of a big towel and managed to get it flung out at the back door but I'll never forget how scared I was that the whole thing would explode.
Mrs Mary Williamson

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Mary Williamson.']

I remember going for the flagon of milk to the Milltown of Arbuthnott with Jean Greig and she always took her pet pig with her.
Mrs Margaret Daniels

There seemed to be thousand of rats at the village shop that were as big as cats. Traps had to be set and poison put down.
Mr. David McLean

Tommy Carson, the schoolteacher's son dressed up as a ghost and frightened my father when he answered the door.
Mrs N. Young

On another occasion Tommy Carson jumped out in front of the mail gig the "Pride of Kincardine," but the gig kept on going and he only just managed to escape up Parkside road. He was found out when his mother discovered a white sheet under his bed.

I remember going over the handlebars of my bike and cutting my lip. Also I remember beating a wasp bike with a bit of broom and being stung all over and had to be put to bed. Everybody else about the place was also stung.

In 1940 I started work at 13 as a Hairdresser's Assistant. I spent all day picking up hairpins and brushing floors.
Mrs Coutts

I remember going to feed the beast one New Year's morning and shouting " Aa you beasts needin' neeps, tails up!" An' there wis nae tails gied up. So I just cum oat!

Things I remember doing as a child:

• having to help carry the corn for sowing before going to school in the morning and having to pull turnips and spread manure after school

• washing all the homeknitted stockings and socks when I got home from school

• help gather sheaves at harvest time

• doing the shopping on a Saturday at Bannermans store where my aunt Nellie was a maid.

• help to pick Rev. Dunn's fruit

• prepare the vegetables for broth before going to Sunday School

• carrying water from the spring up a steep brae when our well went dry all summer

• gathering potatoes that had been ploughed up for 2/- a day.

Mrs Aitken

I used to love hurls in my granda's sidecar of his motorbike. My granny and granda Mutch stayed at Bamph Croft for many years and I used to get a shottie at churning the butter and making the cheese, which my granny traded in along with eggs for her groceries from Bannerman's van. I remember being at a picnic at Arbuthnott House, falling in mud and being taken into the laundry to be cleaned up. This all happened nearly 70 years ago.
Mrs Peg Hall

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Peg Hall.']

I remember that Mr and Mrs Reid from Townhead were real characters. On one occasion Mr. Reid was seen hirpling across the corn yard, apparently in a great deal of pain, gripping the top of his leg tightly. On being asked what he had done to his leg, he replied "Ouch it's no my leg, it's my finger I've hurt!"

On another occasion Mrs Reid had just returned from a trip to Aberdeen to buy a new coat when she was asked what colour her new coat was. Looking towards Mr Reid she replied "Black of course, he could go at ony time!"

James Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon)

No book about life in Arbuthnott over the last decade would be complete without mentioning James Leslie Mitchell; although at times a controversial figure in the parish he cannot be ignored as he is today undoubtedly Arbuthnott's most famous 'son'.

[NOTE: Photo: 'James Leslie Mitchell.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mr and Mrs Mitchell Snr with Leslie, Ray and Rhea.']

Born in Auchterless on the 13th of February 1901 his family moved to Bloomfield in 1908. As a young boy he is remembered locally as being a bit queer because, unlike most of the other local boys, he could always be found reading; some remember him sitting alone on the school dyke at break time with his nose in a book; others recall how he was the only person they have ever seen working in a field, supposedly gathering stones, reading a book at the same time.

Along with his two elder half-brothers, Leslie walked over the hill from Bloomfield past the Gobbs to Arbuthnott School each day where, under the guiding influence of his headmaster Alexander Gray, his writing talent flourished. His first experience of seeing his work in print was in September 1914 when his school essays appeared in the 'Mearns Leader & Kincardineshire Mail'. This would have been an extremely unusual occurrence for the son of a crofter and perhaps offered Leslie a glimpse of where his flair for writing would lead.

[NOTE: Newspaper article from 'Mearns Leader & Kincardineshire Mail'']

Leslie left Arbuthnott School in 1916 at which time he successfully completed the entrance exam for Mackie Academy and for which he was awarded a bursary and travel expenses. To reach the Mackie he walked each day to Drumlithie railway station and travelled by train to Stonehaven. However, his time at the Mackie was short as one day he quarrelled with his teacher and walked out.

On leaving the Mackie, he moved to Aberdeen to become a cub reporter with Aberdeen journals and later moved to Glasgow. After spending time in both the Royal Army Service Corps and the RAF he eventually settled in the south of England where he became a full time writer in 1929. He married his childhood neighbour, Rebecca Middleton from Hareden, in 1925 and together they had a daughter Rhea in 1930 and a son Daryll in 1934.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Leslie's son Daryll Mitchell and Catherine Middleton.']

Leslie Mitchell only lived in Arbuthnott for nine short years but his experiences during that time helped shape his thoughts as he went on to write about Arbuthnott, vaguely disguised as Kinraddie, in his novel "Sunset Song". For this, his first Scottish novel, Leslie adapted the name of his maternal grandmother, Lilias Gibbon, whose maiden name was Grassick, to create his pen-name Lewis Grassic Gibbon. His pseudonym is a mirror image of his own name as he is named after his father's uncle; James Leslie. This half truth, fiction based on fact, is echoed throughout "Sunset Song" and was the cause of a great deal of resentment and bad feeling in Arbuthnott when the novel was first published, leading Leslie to reportedly be told by his father that he had caused the family to be the "the speak o' the Mearns". Although names and places in Arbuthnott had been changed people were clearly able to identify particular personalities in "Sunset Song" and they were not at all happy to see themselves portrayed in such a way. Coupled with this was the radical nature of the novel which, in a society still steeped in traditional Victorian values, led the book to be labelled as pornographic and banned in Scottish libraries - no wonder folk in Arbuthnott at that time wished to distance themselves from the novel.

[NOTE: Photo: 'Telegram from Ray to Mr and Mrs Gray notifying them of Leslie's death on 8th February 1935.']

However, as time has gone on attitudes have changed and most now accept that the characterisations in "Sunset Song" were, broadly speaking, based on reality and that the novel shows the people of Arbuthnott as genuine, kind and caring with a wonderful sense of community and affinity with the land.

[NOTE: Photo: 'The Mitchell's distinctive gravestones in Arbuthnott Church yard.']

Leslie went on to publish seventeen books, thirty nine short stories and numerous essays and book reviews before his untimely death on 7th February 1935 from peritonitis. He was cremated in Golders Green and his ashes brought home by his widow and buried in Arbuthnott Church yard on 23rd February 1935.

Ray Mitchell wrote to Mr and Mrs Gray at Echt in December 1935 with regard to the inscription and design of Leslie's head stone. She expressed her dislike at the necessity, because of maintenance problems, of having to agree to granite chips on the surface of the grave. In the letter she wrote:

"I cannot get myself to begin to like the chips or concrete or gravel idea. It's quite revolting to me but maybe I'm just queer...what I feel I would like is just a simple and natural green patch."

Over sixty years later, after coming into possession of this correspondence from the Gray's niece, Joyce Stephens, the Grassic Gibbon Centre succeeded in fulfilling Ray's wishes by arranging for Aberdeenshire Council to replace the granite chips with grass.

Leslie's father died in May 1936, some say from a broken heart, at which time his mother moved from Bloomfield to Stonehaven where she lived until she passed away in 1953. Leslie's widow, Ray, continued to stay on in England in Welwyn Garden City and did much over the years to promote Leslie's writing until her death in 1978. Along with Leslie's brothers all are remembered on the head stones in Arbuthnott Church yard.

The Grassic Gibbon Centre was built by Arbuthnott Community Association in 1991 and is dedicated to the life and times of James Leslie Mitchell - thereby encompassing a broad interest in the community of Arbuthnott and the people who live there. As a not-for-profit community business, its objectives are to promote the life and work of Lewis Grassic Gibbon and to create local employment.

Isabella Williamson

[NOTE: Photo: 'Taken at Montgoldrum in 1916.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Jim Adams sitting on the knee of his grandfather (also James Adams) at Montgoldrum in 1918.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mr Jim Adams.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'James Cushnie, Mill of Arbuthnott around 1905. He worked in London as a bus driver for a time until his father retired, when he returned to Arbuthnott to run the farm.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mr and Mrs James Mutch and family, Bamph Croft.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'John Mathieson.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'In Arbuthnott House Gardens in 1950']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Mary Williamson on the extreme left, along with her brother, sisters and friend. Taken in the summer (hence the bare feet) sometime in the mid 1920s.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mary and Andy Eccles, Pitcarles, as they were in 1949.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mary and Andy Eccles in 1952.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mary Eccles and the Duke of Edinburgh, 1958.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mary, Madge and Mrs Molly Middleton, Millplough - 1948']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Jim Bolton; Ken Greig; Stan Greig.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Stewart; Mrs Smith; Nellie Riddoch']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Mrs Blease; Mrs Reid; Nellie Riddoch; Elizabeth Morrison - 1961']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Nellie Riddoch with Mr and Mrs Arch Greig in 1973.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Doreen Jeans; Duncan Blades and Sandy Jeans, taken in Arbuthnott Gardens in the 1930s.']

Reference material consulted in the preparation of this book:

Arbuthnott Kirk Session Minutes
Arbuthnott Women's Guild Minutes
Arbuthnott Hall Committee/Community Association Minutes and Account Book
Arbuthnott School Register

Arbuthnott by George Clark Suttie
The Kirk of St Ternan by George A Henderson
The Lairds of Arbuthnott by Christy Bing

The Stonehaven Journal
The Mearns Leader
The Kincardineshire Observer

[NOTE: Photo: 'The Main Lodge, Arbuthnott. Taken from a hand tinted postcard.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Lord Arbuthnott and HRH the Queen Mother, 1963. She had lunch at Arbuthnott House on her way to Stonehaven to open the Tolbooth. Mrs Greig served lunch with two members of the Black Watch who assisted with waiting at the table.']

[NOTE: Photo: 'James Riddoch, Parkneuk']

[NOTE: Photo: 'Arbuthnott House, sometime around 1900.']

Books held at the Grassic Gibbon Centre

Arbuthnott Parish Church:
Large Bible - (loose leather dust jacket; Fiddes Church 1910; originally Camrie Parish 1864)
Large Bible - (no inscription)
Large Bible - (inscribed Rev. Robert Moir Spence 1890; renovation of Church)
Cash Book 1886 -1982
Property Register 1957 -1988
Visitor Books 1934 -1967; 1967 -1971; 1971 -1976; 1976-1979; 1979 -1989
Communicants Roll Books 1877 -1902; 1904 -1919; 1920 -1946; 1952 -1974
Kirk Session Minute Books 1865 -1935; (including Baptismals 1889 -1912); 1935 -1959; 1958 -1982
Register of Proclamations 1856 -1978

Kinloch Trust:
Cash Book and Records 1857 -1893; 1894 -1939; 1940 -1993
Cash Book 1814 -1842; 1842 -1876
Cash Book and Records, 1876 -1906
Treasurer's Book 1861 -1965
Smith Bequest Account Book 1895 -1967
Reid Bequest Accounts 1915 -1927
Schoolmaster Bequest Accounts 1925 -1936
Rankin Bequest Account Book 1875 -1967
Record of Church Burial positions 1819 -1879 (very poor condition)
Registry of Burials 1817 -1877 (very poor condition)

Arbuthnott Hall:

Minute Book 1940 -1995
Account Book 1910-1966


Bervie and Arbuthnott Reading Society 1883 -1938
Scottish Sunday School Union 1927 -1947
Kinneff & Catterline Parochial Board Minute 1845 -1864
Kinneff Parochial Board Minutes 1864 -1874
Arbuthnott Parochial Board Minutes 1860 -1874
Arbuthnott School Register 1874 -1973
Arbuthnott School Library Book 1907 -1921
Blacksmith's Account Book 1918

Arbuthnott WRI:

Minute Book 1966 -1982
Committee Minute Book 1966 -1989

Arbuthnott family tree

At various times throughout the 'Annals of Arbuthnott' reference is made to Lord and Lady Arbuthnott. The following will help the reader recognise who is being referred to at a given time.

1860 - 1891
9th Viscount
John married to Jane
Four children

1891 - 1895
10th Viscount
John (son of 9th Viscount) - married to Harriet
No children

1895 - 1912
11th Viscount
David (son of 9th Viscount) - not married

1912 - 1917
12th Viscount I
William (son of 9th Viscount) - not married

1917 - 1920
13th Viscount
Walter (Charlie) (first cousin of 12th Viscount) - married to Marion
Two children

1920 - 1960
14th Viscount
John (Jack) (son of 13th Viscount) - married to Dorothy
No children

1960 - 1966
15th Viscount
Robert (Keith) (second cousin of 14th Viscount) - married to Ursula
Four children

1966 -
16th Viscount
John (son of 15th Viscount) - married to Mary
Two children

The following are amendments to the original text.

Page 18
Additional information: Miss Ogilvie married the Rev. Alfred S. Barron.

Page 19
Also identified in the Arbuthnott School photograph of 1909 is May Milne from Millplough standing at the end on the front row on the right hand side.

This work is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.


Cite this Document

APA Style:

The Annals of Arbuthnott Part Two. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 25 June 2024, from

MLA Style:

"The Annals of Arbuthnott Part Two." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 25 June 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "The Annals of Arbuthnott Part Two," accessed 25 June 2024,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 1376

The Annals of Arbuthnott Part Two


Text audience

Adults (18+)
Teenagers (13-17)
General public
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Handwritten
Year of composition 2001
Word count 15890
General description Local history

Text medium


Text publication details

Publisher Arbuthnott Community Association Reminiscence Group
Publication year 2001
Place of publication Arbuthnott
ISBN/ISSN 0953947017
Edition 1st

Text setting


Text type

Prose: nonfiction


Author details

Author id 933
Forenames Isabella
Surname Williamson
Gender Female
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 15
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Manager
Place of birth Nairn
Region of birth Nairn
Birthplace CSD dialect area Nai
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Arbuthnott
Region of residence Kincardine
Residence CSD dialect area Kcdn
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Farm worker
Father's place of birth Arbuthnott
Father's region of birth Kincardine
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Kcdn
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Housewife
Mother's place of birth Keith
Mother's region of birth Banff
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Bnf
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes Daily life, work and home
Scots No No No Yes At work