(Synod of Murray*, Presbytery of Strathbogie.)
By the Rev. Mr. James Gordon.

Name, Extent, Situation, etc.

Bellie has been imagined by some to be the Gaelic word Belllaidh, signifying "broom;" but others, more justly, reckon it is a compound from the two Gaelic words Beul-aith, meaning "the mouth of the ford." This etymology is perfectly natural, as, a little above the church, there was, till the prodigious flood in 1768 destroyed it, and opened various channels, one of the finest fords upon the Spey. There his Royal Highness, with his Majesty's army, passed with great safety in 1746, a few days before the battle of Culloden, the Duke of Kingston's light cavalry leading the van. A gentleman once would, jocularly, have this place Bel-lieu. Indeed, Bellie's Hill is a most beautiful spot, commanding a delightful prosepct of Gordon Castle, of the river and part of Murray, of the Murray Frith, and the mountains of Sutherland and Caithness.

All the old names of farms here are of Celtic origin, as Dalachy, the plain field; Auchenreath, the field of heath; Auchenbalrigg, the field of spectres or hobgoblins, etc. The Gaelic tongue, however, has long disappeared in this part of the country; the language, in general, being that dialect of English common to the North of Scotland; though, among all persons who pretend to anything like education, the English language is daily gaining ground.

Bellie extends from S. to N., near 6 measured miles, and from E. to W. almost 4. It is bounded on the N. by the Murray Frith, and on the W. by the river Spey. A considerable part of this space, to about 4 miles from the sea, is contained within the ancient banks of this river, which are very high. What these banks enclose may be considered as the range or territory of the Spey at this place, though it has greatly shifted its channels in different periods.
At Gordon Castle, which is between them,but near that on the E, these banks are near a mile distant from each other. They gradually widen on their approach to the sea, and where the river falls into the frith, are near 2 miles asunder. Between the bank on the E., and the present bed of the Spey, is a fine extensive plain, with many farms, and a great number of inhabitants, the river having kept near the W. side for time immemorial, though it has frequently made ravages, that have rendered many embankments and bulwarks requisite.
This bank is for about a mile below Gordon Castle, handsomely dressed in imitation of nature, and adorned by fine plantations of trees and shrubs, with very pleasant walks. Here is a very great number of large clusters of hollies, which have procured it the appellation of the Holly Bank, as below it is styled the Bank of Bellie.
At the S. end of this charming level stands Gordon Castle. It has a front of 568 feet. I will not attempt to describe this most superb and elegant structure. It is well known to be one of the noblest palaces in Britain, and attracts the notice of all travellers, who never fail to return highly gratified *. Here many a costly drain has been employed to form the enchanting landscape it now exhibits.
There is an immense extent of plantation, a large park of fallow deer; and here we are charmed with all the melody of the grove. Here the woodcock visits us about the end of October, the fieldfare in the winter, and the green plover in the spring.
About a mile N. of Gordon Castle, and 3 miles S. of the Frith, is the church of Bellie, upon the old east bank of the Spey, soon to be translated to Fochabers, where a very commodious, elegant church is to be built, which will be greatly ornamental to the place. The old manse is in ruins, and the minister has got an excellent house in the town of Fochabers.+


* The ancient residence here was called Bogra-gbdhu, or windy bog, there being a very free circulation of air from the Frith and the W.; and the ferry-boat is still the boat of Bog. This habititation was long known all over the N., by the name of The Bog, for an obvious reason. Spalden, if I remember right, seldom uses any other term for it. The castle has doubtless been built here with a view to strength, by ditches and inundation, when property was not so effectually sescured as in our happy days, by the regular execution of wholsome and equitable laws. I need not say how necessary it was in those times to erect fortresses on rocks and in marshes.

+ Fochabers is compunded of the two Gaelic words, Foich, a green plain, properly a plain for rendezvous or weapon-shaw, which was oftern practised here, and Aber, a bay or junction of two waters;s the burn of Fochabers here uniting itself with the Spey. Some years ago, Fochabers was removed soutward from the vicinity of Gordon Castle to a rising ground, near a mile distant, and built on a neat plan, with an extensive square in the centre. It is a burgh of barony, and has a baron bailie. A physician resides among us. We have three annual fairs, one of them for black cattle; and a weekly market for butter and cheese, eggs, poultry,etc. but it is not much resorted to. There are several retail shops, and an ordinary number of the usual artificers. There are two goods inns, well frequented. We have a friendly society pretty numerous. Its funds are accumulating, and will, in a little time, answer very benevolent and useful purposes.

Soil and Agriculture

The ground, which has been recovered from the Spey, is, in general, by a very long course of frequent manure, and, being in small farms, abundantly fertile. We have a good deal of loamy soil, There is not much clay land: that upon the coast is sandy. In general, we depend very much upon the dews of heaven. In a droughty July, our crop near the sea, though promising, swindles amazingly. We enjoy, however, upon the whole, a happy climate: our agricultural system has nothing very different from that of our neighbours all around. We have very few enclosures, except at Gordon Castle, (where an extensive farm is totally enclosed), and at Auchenhalrigg. We cannot boast much of our other modes of melioration, though we commonly do the best we well can.
The people are industrious, and labour hard; and you will not see anything like a farm, where you do not behold a field of sown grass, a piece of turnips, and some potatoes. The potatoe is much cultivated by those who have but small spots of ground, and proves very useful. The sea-weed is much used as manure, to the distance of 2 or 3 miles along the coast; and no work is suffered to interrupt the pursuit of it. Our crops of grain consist chiefly of barley, oats, pease, and rye.

The average wages for common labourers are 6d. a-day in winter, and 8d. in summer. For harvest work, women receive 6d., and men 10d. A common artificer gets 10d. to 1s. a-day. With these payments, they generally have their victuals. A good man servant for the half year seldom has less than 3l, and the women, for the same period, receive about 20s. And these point at continual increase.

There are in the parish upwards of 1000 black cattle, mostly of the common country breed, many of which are sent away in the summer to graze, pasture grass being scarce upon the coast. We have about 340 horses, many of them rather small sized, and something above 2200 sheep, generally a mixture of the Linton breed. Gordon castle will readily be supposesd an exception to all these, where the cattle, horses and sheep are large. Many plough with a pair of horses. Indeed, it is the most frequent practice, the ground being light and easily managed; Some put a yoke or two of black cattle behind them. There are but few ploughs, comparatively, drawn by oxen entirely. A cart among the country people may generally be reckoned for every horse: Carts drawn otherwise, are not many in comparison.

Manufasctures and Fisheries.

One manufacturer of some eminence, has long resided on the burn of Fochabers, and manages very considerable business in weaving stockings of cotton, thread, and worsted, and some pieces for waistcoats and breeches. He also deals a little in the thread trade. Another, who is also a merchant, carries on a manufacture of lint, thread and tobacco, to some amount.
There is an capital salmon fishery here upon the Spey, chiefly the property of the Duke of Gordon, from which his grace derives a rent of 1500 l. a-year, from Messrs Gordon and Richardson. It extends from Speymouth about 5 miles, and terminates in a complete row of cruives across the river.
There is a large lofty edifice near the sea for the gentlemen that hold the lease. There are buildings for the overseers, coopers, etc. and that furnish every accomodation for the fishery. They have got a very good ice-house. An hundred and thirty men, or more, are employed in this fishery. There is also a salmon fishing upon the coast, called stell fishing. Ssome thousands of salmon are sent to London early in the season, covered with ice: Afterward they are exported in kits steeped in vinegar, of which many hogsheads are yarly laid in for the purposse. These kits contain about 36 pounds of salmon each.
When the great city is splentifully supplied, and the price much reduced, it becomes convenient to salt the salmon, and to send them to the foreign markets. The natural effect of this demand, is dearth of salmon here. Indeed, the expense of living had increased very considerably within these 20 years in almost every article. In this we are not singular.


T he Duke of Gordon is our only resident heritor, and indeed, the sole proprietor of the oarish, except of one farm belonging to the Earl of Linklater.

Population, etc.

The return to Dr. Webster in 1755, was 1730. The parish of Bellie now contains 1919 souls, viz. country part 984, and the village 935. Of these, there are 859 males, and 1060 females. This disproportion has not been occasioned by emigration, for of that we have had very few instances, but from the military genius exerting itself on particular emergencies.
We have of married couples 272, and of young people about 10 years old, and under, 437, viz. 205 boys, and 232 girls. Though it be known, that a superior number of males is born into the world, these little difference will happen in particular corners, by removals and other causes.
For 14 years past, 10 couples, at a medium, have been married yearly, and 31 children registered, viz. 16 males, and 15 females. The latter article cannot be exact as to the number born in the parish, it being difficult to bring some, even of our own people, to insert the names of their children, with all the care that can be taken.
There are in the parish 458 dwellings; 250 in Fochabers, and 208 in the country. The average numbers in these habitations is a little more than 4.
With regard to longevity, there is nothing her peculiar. We are blessed with a mild, pure, temperate air. Some live to 70, some to 80 years of age, though few, in comparison, it may be supposed. A few are now alive on the very borders of 90. A man died at 90 some little time ago, and another at 108, or upwards.
There are no diseases incident, in any uncommon way, in this corner. The fishermen, from their employment, are sometimes seized with palsies in the lower parts, and sever rheumatism. These maladies are guarded against by the care taken of them, and the quantity of spirits allowed them.

Ecclesiastical State, etc.

By far the greater part of the people are of the established church. We have, however, a very considerable number of Roman Catholicks, with a priest of the church of Rome, and a large chapel. There are a few Protestants of the Episcopal persuasion; and 4 or 5 Seceders reside among us. We all live very cordially and happily together. The body of the people, it is but justice to say, are of respectable character.
We have, alas! exceptions: And what community is without some, whose conduct in lifen is matter of very sserious regret. The custom that prevails more and more, not in this corner alone, among the lower classes, of substituting dram-drinking for a draught of good beer, has a most pernicious tendency, with regard to health and morals. The people her are, in general, of a ssober, rational, religious disposition, regular in their attendance on public ordinances, and careful of the social duties.
Near the confines of this and Rathven parish, a neat chapel has been lately built for the itinerant minister, who has a considerable district of this parish as part of his charge. He has something from a fund collected, and accumulating, for the benefit of that mission, in addition to his salary from the society, and a glebe of 8 acres. A house is also intended him. The stipend of Bellie is 72l. 6s. 4 1/2d., including allowances for communal elements. The glebe at Bellie was lately excambed for one at Fochabers, which measures 13 acres of good land.

Schools and Poor

There is a parochial school at Fochabers. The schoolmaster teaches English, Latin, writing, arithmetic, and book-keeping. His salary is 14 bolls of meal. He has a small fee as session-clerk, the school dues, and payment for registration of baptisms and marriages.
There is a society school about 3 miles from Fochabers, of the utmost consequence to the very great number of poor creatures, who could not possibly attend, or be accomodated in the parish school.
We have not many common beggars, yet a numerous list of poor, among whom are distributed the collections insnthe church, which (especially when our great family is at home) are of much benefit, the dues from the mortcloth, and the interest of a little money. A chalder of meal is annually bestowed upon the poor about 2d February, the Marquis of Huntly's birth day. There are ssome bedesmen who, by an ancient provision in the family, receive meal and money, which give a very comfortable subsistence. They are old worn-out men. Private donations are given; and the people, in general, are charitably disposed.

Curiosity and Antiquity

The only rare plant in the parish, is Satyrium Repens, which grows in plenty within a mile of Fichabers. There is a field of little more than 3 acres, a little to the N. of the church of Bellie, to which tradition has given the name of the Danish Camp. Large remains of the entrenchments have been preserved. It is upon the od E. bank of the Spey, and the river had then flowed at the bottom, which had occasioned the choice of the post. This camp may have connectd with the battle between the Scots and Danes, in the neighbourhood of Cullen. From the square figure ofthe encampment, it should rather seem to have been a Roman camp, though it be difficult to say when the Romans were here, unless Agricola might land a detachment in his traverse on the coasts of Scotland. Bridge over the Spey.

I cannot conclude this sketch of the parish of Bellie, without taking notice of the necessity of throwing a bridge over the Spey at Fochabers. This is, upon the most solid grounds, the ardent wish of all who know this passage. Fochabers is a very considerable thorough-fare, and Spey is well known to be a large and rapid river. Numberless travallers of all descriptions from every part of Britain, pass this way, who are frequently detained by floods and boisterous winds, and sometimes cross with danger. The post-boy is, at times, detained, though they waft him over when they wouldnot run the risk with any other person. Not long ago, he was stopped 3 nights in the courses of one week. They sometimes ferry over the mail, when they dare not take the horse in the boat.
A bridge here would be of utmost consequence to the country, in driving cattle to and from the markets, of which many fine droves travel this way, and are often reduced to great hardships. It would be extremely beneficial in bringing limestone from Banffshire to Murray, where it is exceedingly wanted; and it would be of unspeakable importance to his Majesty's troops, who almost always march by this route; especially would it be of the last moment, when the public service requires dispatch.
The universal sense of the propriety of this measure, has already been strongly evinced by very considerable subscriptions, to which, it is to be hoped, liberal additons will yet be made. Public aid, however, is indispensibly necessary: and we may humbly presume, that aid will very generously be granted, when the state of national affairs can properly admit of it.

Rafford OSA