Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Speymouth

Speymouth, a parish in the extreme NE of Elginshire. It is bounded N by the parish of Urquhart, E by Banffshire and the parish of Bellie, SE by the Teindland district of the parish of St Andrews-Llanbryd, and NW by the parish of Urquhart. The boundary all along the E side is the centre of the course of the Spey; elsewhere it is almost entirely artificial, though in the NW at Lunan Wood it follows for ¾ mile the centre of the road along the valley of the Spey from Garmouth upwards. The greatest length, from the centre of the Spey a little below Essil south-south-westward to the top of Findlay's Seat, is 7 3/8 miles; the average breadth at right angles to this is about 1 5/8 mile; and the area is 6352.370 acres, of which 327.082 are water. In the N the surface is low, but rising abruptly almost at once it passes southward in an undulating plateau from 150 to 200 feet above sea-level, and with a steep bank along the course of the Spey. Towards the SW it rises still higher, reaching its greatest height in the SW corner at Findlay's Seat (861 feet). In the N the steep bank just mentioned approaches close to the river, but to the SE at Dipple there is a stretch of fine haugh having an extreme breadth of about ¾ mile. About half the parish is moorish, pastoral, or woodland, and about 100 acres along the river are pebbles or bare beach. The soil of the haugh is fertile alluvium, and that of about one-half of the rest of the area is a light loam. The remainder of the parish has a light sandy or gravelly soil, and the sub-soil all over varies from clay to gravel. The underlying rock is Old Red Sandstone, and the beds, which are of a deep red colour, are quarried for local purposes. The drainage is carried off by the Spey and a few small rivulets, of which the chief is the Red Burn, which crosses the southern part of the parish. Speymouth was formed in 1731 by the union of the old parishes of Dipple and Essil and the barony of Garmouth. The last, including Garmouth and Kingston, was originally in the parish of Urquhart, from which it was disjoined in 1649, but it was again united to its old parish in 1662. It remained in Urquhart till 1688, and was then re-transferred to Speymouth, in which it remained till 1851, when it was again joined to Urquhart. As the ` king's highway ' from Aberdeen northwards has passed through the parish from a very early date, Speymouth h as been the scene of several events connected with the history of Scotland. It was here that in 1087 Malcolm Ceannmor's army crossed the Spey to attack the forces of Maelsnectan, `Ri Moreb' or King of Moray, and ` won the mother of Maelslaeht and all his best men and all his treasure and cattle.' Bower, in his Scotichronicon, fixes it also as the scene of the battle, in 1116, between Alexander I. and `certain people of the Mearns and Moray ' that had attacked him while he was engaged in erecting a new palace near Dundee. `He then pursued the rebels to the river Spey, and there finding his enemies collected in great numbers on the opposite bank, and the river so swollen, and his men unwilling to cross, he gave his standard to Alexander Carron, who plunged into the stream, was followed by the army, and his enemies were put to flight ' The details of the battle are doubtful, though there can be no doubt that some such affair took place. Wynton localises the fight at the Beauly, and not at the Spey. It was either in Speymouth or in Urquhart, though more probably in the latter, that Malcolm IV. defeated the Moray men in 1160 before he introduced his Flemish settlers into the lower district of the province. In 1296, and again in 1303, Edward I. crossed at the ford below the church, and encamped in Speymouth, probably at Redhall; and in later centuries the parish shared in all the disturbances in which the Gordons were concerned. The same ford used by Edward's army was also that selected by the troops of Cromwell and Montrose, and again in the 18th century by the forces under the Duke of Cumberland on their way to Culloden. It is noted in the records of the kirk session that there was no service in church on the 23d Feb., 9th, 16th, 23d, 30th March, or the 6th April 1746, in consequence of the presence of the Highland army in the parish. A memorandum recorded by the minister in the same volume tells that on 11 Feb., `the first body of the rebels, on their return from Lochborough, in England, came to Fochabers, and some of them came to Stynie., On 23 Feb. some of Crichton of Auchingoul's men `hindered publick worship,' and on 2 March `several rebells were in church, heard King George prayed for, and made no disturbance;' while under Tuesday, 18 March, it is recorded that `Lord John Drummond came to the manse, and it became the rebels' headquarters at Spey. About a week after the Duke of Perth came, and the house was frequented by Lord Ogilvie, Sir Wm. Gordon of Park, Sir James Kinloch, Avochie, Cowbardie, Major Hales, Mr Fletcher of Benochie, and sometimes others, as Lord Elcho, Lord Strathallan, Lord Balmerinoch, Earle of Kilmarnock, Secretary Murray, Mr Sullivan, and many others. Though this was expensive to the minister, they used him very civilly and gave him no disturbance on point of principle, but there was no public worship during their stay.' On 12 April ` The Duke of Cumberland with his army marched from Cullen, crossed the Spey at a ford directly E of Speymouth church, with the loss of one man only drowned, and encamped from Redhall to Speymouth manse, where he sleeped.' He left on the following day, which was a Sunday, for Alves. The Highlanders had retired on the approach of Cumberland's forces, Sir John Drummond and his advisers, who bad been left to guard the passage with a force of about 2000 men, deeming the position too open in the rear. There was very little wood then in the `laigh' of Moray as compared with what there is now, and had the ford been forced the defenders would have had no chance of taking up a fresh position till they reached the Findhorn. The Highlanders seem to have behaved themselves well, as the only charge brought against them is that some of Gordon of Glenbucket's men stole about twenty shillings of poor's money from the session clerk; while it is also noted `that the velvet mortcloth was taken away by the souldiers under the Duke of Cumberland, April 12th, 1746.,

The only person who can in any way be claimed as a distinguished native is Jane Innes, the wife of Governor Pitt, of Madras - grandmother of the Earl of Chatham and great-grandmother of William Pitt - who was a daughter of James Innes of Redhall. The main road from Aberdeen to Inverness crosses the Spey at Fochabers Bridge, and passes westward for 1 ½ mile across the centre of the parish. It is intersected at right angles about the middle by the road from Garmouth up the W side of the Spey. The south-western part of the parish is also traversed for 1 7/8 mile by a reach of the Forres and Keith section of the Highland Railway system, on which is Fochabers station. Along the first-mentioned road is the little village of Mosstodloch, 2 miles NE of Fochabers station.

Speymouth is in the presbytery of Elgin and synod of Moray, and the living is worth £250 a year. The parish church, built in 1732, and repaired and enlarged in 1799, stands on the high ground overlooking the Spey, ¾ mile NE of Mosstodloch. Though Garmouth and Kingston are now in Urquhart quoad civilia, they remain for ecclesiastical and school board matters in Speymouth, and the school board has under its charge schools at Garmouth and Speymouth, which, with accommodation for 230 and 173 pupils respectively, had in 1884 attendances of 185 and 84, and grants of £166, 0s. 6d. and £69, 15s. The only landowner is the Duke of Richmond. Valuation (1860) £8392, (1883) £6581, 15s. Pop. (1861) 689, (1871) 634, (1881) 656, of whom 329 were males and 327 females. Houses (1881) 113 inhabited and 3 uninhabited. The pop. of the parish, inclusive of the portions afterwards transferred to Urquhart, was 1476 in 1831 and 1608 in 1881.—Ord. Sur., shs. 95, 85, 1876.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a parish"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 4th order divisions")
Administrative units: Speymouth ScoP       Moray ScoCnty
Place: Speymouth

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