Brief History of Fordyce.

fordyce castle front view In contrast to the regular shape and layout of north-East Scotland’s ‘improved’ villages, the ancient settlement of Fordyce has grown naturally as the religious centre (or ‘kirktoun’) of a large parish.
The Kirkton of Fordyce became a Burgh of Barony in 1499 through Bishop Elphinstone in Aberdeen and had its charter renewed to Menzies of Durn in 1592. Its earliest charter is known to have been dated 1492, but has been lost.
fordyce tower corbel

Fordyce Castle.

This same Thomas Menzies, Provost of Aberdeen, built Fordyce castle in 1592, a three story L-plan tower house. It has a stair tower corbelled out at the re-entrant angle, an angle turret and shot-holes. Note the ten rings of stone decorating the stair tower – five plain and five with decorative cable moldings, each one different. The Castle’s north wing (on the church side) dates around 1700.

Fairs and markets.

As a focal point in a farming community, its status as a Burgh of Barony entitled it to hold markets and fairs. The earliest was known as Summariffe Fair, later called Hallow Fair. It took place on the common land immediately east of the village, bisected today by the Portsoy road.

The local minister writing in the ‘New Statistical Account (1842) states that ‘There is a fair (All-Hallow Fair) held annually…on the last Wednesday of October; and another …on the fourth Thursday of November. Both are for the sale of sheep and cattle; the first has also long been one of the chief feeing markets of the district’ (Feeing, in Scots, means the practice of hiring farm servants for a six month term).

Because of a misreading of an early charter, for many years Fordyce was permitted a Sunday market held within the churchyard. This led to much drinking and conflict with the religious authorities. The market was eventually banned. The ‘Drunken Bell’ was also introduced and rung as a signal that the minister was about to do the rounds of the local ale-houses, to check up on those within. The minister responsible for the Statistical Account (1791-1799) remarks that he still had to ‘make a step through the village, after dinner, and break up drinking parties’. Fordyce has no ale-house today.

fordyce kirk mortar stane

The Mortar Stane.

The Mortar Stane (stone) associated with a vary old village tradition, can still be seen in the kirkyard, though it is now split and has a portion missing. Until about the late 1940’s every Hogmanay this stone was taken round the village in a cart and left outside the door of the family of the most eligible girl in the village. A ‘head man’ would sit on the cart and read a message of good luck to the selected girl. Her father would then offer refreshments to the party. The stone outside the door was taken as a sign – always fulfilled – that the girl would be married within the year.

Shortly before the end of the year, the stone would be carried away to a secret hiding place, then on Hogmanay carried to a new maiden’s home. The concealment of the stone became necessary because of rival factions disagreeing over the most eligible girl.

Local tales differ as to how the ancient stone was broken, but they all involve a fire being built around it, causing it to split.

The Loutin Cross Stane.

loutin cross staneFrom the old Scots lout, meaning to bow or submit, the Loutin Cross Stane lies all but forgotten on the now wooded Fordyce Hill, a little way south. This sacred stone recalls the days when part of this Kirk’s revenues were paid to St Machar Cathedral in Aberdeen. When the Bishop of Aberdeen journeyed round his lands, people came from miles around to be blessed. The chosen place was the Loutin Cross Stane, used as an alter and a receptacle for holy water.

The Durn Hill.

The landmark of the Durn Hill (199ft) shelters Sandend from the east. Shallow trenches, traces of ancient defensive works, can be seen circling the hilltop. Some archaeologists maintain that these trenches mark only the planned line of defense, suggesting that the hillfort was never finished.

Illustrations by Brian Anderson