fp-2.1-Buildings and Commerce 1550-1879

History of Portsoy.

Commerce and Buildings – 1550 – 1879

Researched by Findlay Pirie


From the book “Records of the County of Banff 1660 -1760″ – Grant: -


Report from a meeting of the Commissioners of Supply of the County of Banff: – “It being presented in the name of Lord Findlater to the Justices that the public road after passing the Bridge of Durn in the King’s Highway betwixt Banff and Cullen is becoming quite impassable by the brae on the side of the road giving way and falling down, and that it is absolutely necessary to alter the said road and carry it through the head of the town of Portsoy or thereby.”


Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, February 4th 1903: -


We have received from Dr. Cramond, Cullen, copy of the following letter written by George Hutcheon, merchant in Portsoy, to George Watson, merchant in Whitehills, authorising him to collect the accounts enumerated. It is interesting to meet in record with the name of one of the “wives” of Corncairn famous in song. It is also interesting to note the summary method that Portsoy merchants then had of dealing with customers in arrears, as appears from the brief letter at the close: -

“At Portsoy the 25 Juny 1677

Item resting be Jhone Clerk in Portsoy ane quarter of lint 1 lib. 5s.

Item resting be James Wood, fisher in Portsoy ane quarter of lint 1 lib 5s.

Mair resting be Walter Clerk in Boyndie the superplus of two paire of cards 9s 4d.

Item resting be Alexr Livingstowne servitour to the laird of Boyne for Tobacco 12s.

Mair resting be Thomas Ogilvie of Dulwhine for sex firlotes of meale 7 lib 10s.

Mair resting be him for balling 8s. 6d.

Mair resting be him for sop and stiffne (starch) 7s. 6d.

I receaved of that compt sex pound Scots.

Item resting be Elspet Ogilvie in Fordice for tobacco and sop 1 lib. 6s 8d.

Item resting be Gilbert Chambers in Brigshillach. 6s.

Item resting be Jhone Fordyce in Auchincrive 7s. 4d

Item resting be James Craib at the Milne of Iden for ribbens, gloves etc 14s.

Item resting be George Allan in Whyntie for the superplus of ane harvest fie 1 lib 3s 4d.

Item resting be Mr. James Skiner for the superplus of ane accompt 1 lib 17s 8d

Item resting be Captayne Ogilvie of the superplus of ane acccompt 12s.

Item resting be Janet More in Cornecarne six pound of lint 1 lib. 17s 6d.

Item resting be Thomas Mackie in Corse 12s.

Item resting be Barbara Robertson in Bridgshillach 12s.

Sir, you must have me excused for not keeping tyme to you and therfor I desire you to put these persones into executione and gather up this till meeting. No more at present but my Love being presented to you and your bed fellow.

Your humble servant, GEORGE HUTCHEON”


From a manuscript of 1843, by Dr. George Greig, Portsoy published in the Banffshire Reporter in instalments in 1893 and 1894 and in the Banffshire Journal of 20th. Sept. 1938: -


Several vessels, well manned and armed, were employed in the trafficking and many of the old houses display numerous secret nooks and corners for concealing smuggled goods. The most noted of the merchants engaged in it was Mr. Alexander Bremner, (better known as ‘Laird Bremner) who lived in a large house (dated 1726) near the Corfe House, which is still standing and occupied as grain lofts.

This individual, besides other branches of business, owned no fewer than eight vessels wholly his property; also the house, now occupied as the ‘Commercial Inn’ with the adjoining feus and the houses surrounding that piece of ground in the lower aird


From the book “Jacobites of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire in the forty-five” by A & H Taylor 1928

Party of Jacobites pillage meal from Granary in Portsoy – Jean Dalrymple, housekeeper to Lord Findlater, stated that on 9th. April 1746 a party returning from Portsoy after pillaging meal from a granary belonging to Lord Findlater, went through Cullen House likewise the same day, and as they had little to take, carried off several books from the remains of the library.


The Corfe House “The Granary, Portsoy, Banffshire.” Presented to Findlay Pirie by Elizabeth Beaton

A communication from John Adam (1), a member of the illustrious Adam family of architects, belongs at first sight to the field of architectural history rather than of vernacular building. But, when the vernacular embraces traditional buildings besides building traditions, the boundary blurs. Adam’s involvement was with an estate granary (Fig.l) at Portsoy on the Banffshire coast, almost certainly that now known as Lord Findlater’s Corf House. (2) The following letter was written in 1765 by John Adam to the Earl of Findlater and Seafield, Cullen, Banffshire about his proposed harbourside storehouse .

My Lord

I have the honour of your Loss (3) of this date, and would wait upon your Loss to give the answer. But as I must go to Fife tomorrow morning early by appointment, I hope you will accept this manner of returning an answer.

As to Cellars under the granary, I do not imagine they would be advisable in point of expence (sic.), as well as convenience. To make them answer in point of convenience, they should be sunk under the level of the Ground. But then the expence of digging out the Rock would far exceed what would be got for them: And I am afraid they would be liable to underwater. And if they were kept totally above ground, it would raise the Granary higher than one would wish in point of convenience. As to dampness arising from the Ground to the meall Girnells (sic.), I do not think there can be much danger from that, especially as the floor is proposed (if I remember right) to be raised about 2 feet above the level of the Ground, which should be filled up with Lyme riddlings or such dry Rubbish, under the flagging as Pavement. And that I think would effectually prevent any danger. Indeed I do not see from whence damp is to come, except from the high ground behind the House; But I would propose that it should be cut down, as the distance of 2 or 2 1/2 feet from the Back Wall, and some deeper than the level of the floor, so as to serve for a Drain and it should be made with a good descent if possible to both ends) that the rains, or what weeps from the rock, may run easily.

I should not imagine that at the width drawn, there would be any need for posts under the Center (sic) of the Joisting. If it shall be thought necessary to make the Granary wider, then Posts would be very proper

But I kept it narrow both to save putting down much of the Rock behind and a wide span of the roof. For these reasons I should think it improper to increase the width, unless it shall be found upon further examination that the Rock will admit it without much trouble. No doubt the width may be increased a little without much addition to the expence. But if it was to any degree, the Charge would be very considerably augmented.

I have the honour to be with the greatest Respect and Esteem My Lord

Your Lordship’s Most faithfull and obedient Hum. servn.

John Adam

North Merchston, 19 May 1765

To The Earl of Findlater and Seafield


Aberdeen Journal, Tuesday, July 6th, 1756: -


That upon Thursday the 22nd. July, betwixt the hours of three and four in the afternoon, in the house of Mr. Lorimer, vintner, in Portsoy, that tenement of houses, with the close, yard and pertinents lying on the west side of the High Street, near the harbour of Portsoy, formerly belonging to and possessed by the deceased Colin Falconer, are to be exposed to sale by public voluntary roup.


Aberdeen Journal, January 22nd 1760: -


We have received from Cullen the following article: – Last week, arrived at Portsoy, the three following Dutch ships, all with flax, viz., The “Ja Jas Van Dine”; the “Moartin”, Franz Stam; and the “D’Jongst Saindt”, Desk Boogh. This shows how industry prevails where the Earl of Findlater and Lord Deskford has interest.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, January 28th 1765: -


That there is to be sold by John Lorimer, merchant in Portsoy: – A cargo of exceedingly fine Dantzic Fir plank, from 12 to 24 feet long, and from 2 to 3 inches thick, as also a parcel of Bergen deals and a considerable quantity of best pearl and Gasup Ashes. The whole will be sold on reasonable terms, either for money or credit, as the purchaser and proprietor can agree.


Aberdeen Journal, November 9th 1767: -


As there has been of late a Banking Company established at Aberdeen, and although their original contract be recorded in the Books of Session; yet we presume it will not be unacceptable to the public to have a list of the names of the partners of that Company: -

  • James Robertson, merchant in Portsoy
  • James Milne, merchant in Portsoy
  • James Gordon, merchant in Portsoy
  • Alexander Robertson, merchant in Portsoy (Portsoy names only)


From the book: – “A Tour of Scotland in 1769″ by Thomas Pennant”. Third Edition. Reprinted by Melven Press, 176 High Street, Perth in 1979: -

Passed by the House of Boyne a ruined castle, on the edge of a steep glen, filled with some good ash and maples.

Near Portsoy, a small town in the parish of Fordyce, is a large stratum of marble, in which asbestos has been sometimes found: it is a coarse sort of Verd di Corfica, and used in some houses for chimney-pieces. Portsoy is the principal place in this parish, and contains about six hundred inhabitants, who carry on a considerable thread manufacture, and one of snuff; there also belong to the town twelve ships, from forty to a hundred tons burden; and there are in the parish six fishing boats, each of whose crew consists of six men and a boy.


Aberdeen Journal, October 1772: -


That upon Tuesday the 3rd. day of November next to come, there is to be exposed to public roup and sale within the house of George Riddoch, Vintner, Portsoy.

All and hail of that tenement of land, houses, yards and pertinents thereto belonging, which sometimes appertained to the deceased James Farquhar, merchant, Portsoy, and now to John Farquhar, landwaiter at Aberdeen, his eldest lawful son. The houses are in good repair and the tenements extremely well situated, as it is central to the town and immediately upon the highway that leads through the town of Portsoy and upon the road that leads to and from the harbour to Huntly and all the country to the south and south-west of the Burgh. The progress (which is clear) and articles of roup to be seen in the hands of Messrs. John Gordon, Writer in Banff, and James Gordon, merchant in Portsoy, to whom or the proprietor at his house in Aberdeen any person choosing to purchase may apply.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday January 4th 1773: -


Twelve or sixteen capable quarriers wanted for working the limestone quarries of Dunnydich and Old Hyth in the neighbourhood of Portsoy. Good encouragement will be given and they will be accommodated in crofts of land at a reasonable rent. Such as this may suit are desired to apply to John Munro, merchant in Banff, or James Robertson, Jnr., merchant in Portsoy, either of whom will be ready to bargain with them. The sooner quarriers apply the better.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, March 14th, 1774: -


The limestone quarries of Old Hyth lying about a mile eastward of Portsoy, being now provided with a proper number of quarriers, there will always be a large stock of quarried limestone for sale. All who choose to take limestone from Old Hyth quarries, will please apply for warrants, to Mr. William Chalmers, merchant in Gardenstown, Mr. George Skinner, merchant in Banff, or to Mr. James Robertson, Jnr., merchant in Portsoy. Also any who have occasion for lime of the very best quality, will be supplied on the most reasonable terms with any quantity that may be wanted, shipped free on board of any vessel in the harbour of Portsoy, by applying to the said James Robertson, Jnr., in Portsoy.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, April 11th 1774: -


The Limestone Quarries of Redhyth, commonly called Dunnydich, a mile to the westwards of Portsoy, being now provided with a proper number of quarriers, there will always be a large amount of quarried limestone in readiness for sale. All those who choose to take limestone from the said quarries will please to apply for warrants to Messrs John Munro and James Shand, merchants in Banff, and tacksmen of the quarries, or to Mr. James Young, merchant in Sandend, or James Cran, quarrier of the said quarry and there will be great care taken to give quick despatch at the quarries.

Likewise any gentlemen wanting lime, will be served by James Shand at Banff, to be shipped at the harbour of Banff, which is no distance from said harbour.

There is lime to be shipped to any person at the said quarries by John Munro; any boat or ship of thirty tuns can come to the quarries as it is a fine safe port. The lime is of the very best quality.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, March 24th 1777: -


To be Sold by Public Roup within the house of George Riddoch, Vintner, in Portsoy, upon Thursday the 3rd. day of April ensuing betwixt the hours of Eleven and Twelve Forenoon.

The feu tenement of Houses and Yard in Portsoy, belonging to James Ogilvie, sometime Shipmaster there, and now to his daughter, fronting the High Street of Portsoy, and lying betwixt the tenements belonging to James Robertson, Senr., and Mr. James Milne.

This tenement is of larger extent of ground that the ordinary feues in Portsoy, is extremely well situated for a merchant, as it lies in the most public part of the town, is near the harbour and would make most convenient granaries, shops and cellars.


Aberdeen Journal Monday, April 6th. 1778: -

PUBLIC NOTICE – Sale of a House and Yard.

That there is to be exposed by public roup within the house of George Riddoch, vintner, Portsoy, upon Thursday 16th. April current at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

A very convenient house and yard lying on the east side of the burn of Portsoy, presently possessed by William Aven, tidewaiter, and others, consisting of four rooms, a closet, three cellars, a kitchen and garrets. There is also a barn in the yard. Any person inclining to purchase by private bargain may apply to Patrick Brown, merchant in Portsoy, the proprietor, any time before the day of the sale.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, June 8th 1778: -

PUBLIC NOTICE – Sale of Houses.

That there is to be sold in Portsoy on the 15th. of June current.

A full feu of a tenement of houses in Portsoy on which there is built two large separate dwelling houses of eight rooms, besides kitchens, cellars, garrets and many other conveniences, with a barn, stable, corn and kail yard. The roup is to be held in the house of George Riddoch, vintner in Portsoy, by 11 o’clock forenoon of said day, when the houses will be set up to sale jointly or separately as purchasers shall incline. The conditions of the roup and the titles to the houses and tenements, which are clear, are to be seen in the hands of James Robertson and Patrick Brown, merchants in Portsoy.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, October 23rd 1780: -


Wanted – A clerk to manage the thread industry in Portsoy, carried on in the name of William Milne & Co. As the encouragement will be good, none need apply who are not capable, well recommended, and can give good security. Proposals may be given in to Mr. William Dunbar in Portsoy.


Aberdeen Journal, January 6th 1783: -


On Tuesday 14th. January 1783 will be exposed to public roup the house on the Shorehead of Portsoy, presently possessed by James Burnet, merchant, Portsoy, lately built new, the premises insured, and the premium paid to the 2nd. December 1787. Anyone inclining a private bargain may apply to the said James Burnet any day prior to the sale. There is likewise to sell in the said house, beds, tables, chairs, an eight-day clock, with kitchen furniture etc. Also oats and fodder, barley and fodder, hay, a howfe, two cows with the whole labouring utensils, all the property of the said James Burnet.


Aberdeen Journal, April 28th 1783: -


The Tobacco Manufacturing Company at Portsoy being dissolved, the houses belonging to the said company with the mills and machinery for making snuff, which are wrought by water, and other utensils and implements of said machinery, together with the stock of manufactured snuff and tobacco on hand, are to be sold by public roup at George Riddochs, vintner, Portsoy, the 20th. of May next. The rights to the subjects and conditions of sale will be shown by Mr. James Gordon any day previous to the roup.


Aberdeen Journal, July 7th. 1783: -


John Gordon, late malster in Portsoy, begs leave to inform the public, that he has entered to the possession of a commodious house in the Square or market place, most accessible for carriages and travellers leading from Banff to Cullen. The house will be found in good repair, and well furnished, excellent stabling, and a neat summer-house etc., with a small piece of pleasure ground hard by the inn. With these conveniences and an inclination to serve the public on the most reasonable terms, he humbly requests their countenance and protection.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, May 16th. 1785: -


To the DEBTORS and CREDITORS of PATRICK BROWN and JAMES BROWN, and PATRICK BROWN and SON, merchants in Portsoy – tobacco-work, houses in Portsoy, cows, horses, labouring utensils, &c., for sale.

Thomas Bannerman and Alexander Hadden, merchants in Aberdeen, trustees on the sequestrate bankrupt estate, real and personal, of Patrick Brown and James Brown, and Patrick Brown and Son, merchants in Portsoy, hereby give notice to the debtors of the said Patrick Brown and James Brown, and Patrick Brown and Son, that they have appointed David Morice, advocate in Aberdeen, their Factor for recovering the debts which are due to the said Patrick Brown and James Brown and Patrick Brown and Son,; and therefore require the debtors forthwith to pay in what they owe, to the said David Morice, at his house in Marischall Street, Aberdeen, otherwise they will be forthwith prosecuted.

For the convenience of the debtors who live in or about Portsoy, Mr. Morice will attend at the house of Mr. Riddoch, vintner in Portsoy, on Friday the 20th. day of May current from nine in the morning till nine at night, for the purpose of settling accounts, and receiving money.

They further give notice that on Thursday the 19th. day of May current, there will be exposed to public roup at Portsoy: – three horses and a shalt, four cows , some farming utensils, household furniture, hoops, goods, casks and lumber, which pertained to the said Patrick Brown and James Brown, and Patrick Brown and Son ; the roup to begin at ten o’clock forenoon.

And that, at five o’clock afternoon on the same day, there will be exposed to sale by public Roup within the house of Mr. Riddoch, vintner in Portsoy, the tenements and houses in Portsoy, which belonged to the said Patrick Brown, in the following Lots viz.: -

LOT I. Containing these houses on the east of the Burn of Portsoy, which are occupied by James Gerrie, John Donald and others.

LOT II. Containing these houses and close on the east side of the Burn of Portsoy, commonly called Margaret Jack’s close, with the barn and yard on the top of the brae, possessed by Alexr. Burgess, George Johnston, John Simpson and others.

LOT III. Containing that houses in Portsoy occupied by James Gray, Butcher.

At the same time and place will be sold: – two third shares of the stock and utensils of the tobacco-work at Portsoy, carried on under the firm of James Brown & Co. And also the leases of some pieces of ground in the neighbourhood of Portsoy, occupied by the said Patrick Brown.

The rights of the houses, rentals, and articles of roup, will be seen in the hands of the said David Morice.

The trustees foresaid, likewise require the whole creditors of the said Patrick Brown and James Brown, and Patrick Brown and Son, forthwith to lodge with them or in the hands of the said David Morice, their Factor, their whole claims and vouchers and grounds of debt with their oaths for proving the same, in terms of the Act of Parliament, and that against the ninth day of June next, certifying such of them as shall neglect to comply with this requisition, that they will not be entitled to any share in that first distribution of the debtor’s estate.


Aberdeen Journal, May 1st. 1786:-


MRS RIDDOCH, Relict of the Deceased, George Riddoch, Vintner. Begs leave to return her best thanks to the gentlemen and others, who were pleased to favour her late husband, and to inform them, and the public in general, that she still keeps up the inn in the town of Portsoy, occupied by her late husband, and is resolved to pay every attention in her power to gentlemen and others who are pleased to sop and call at her house, and hopes to merit the countenance and support of the public.

A neat post-chaise and saddle horses on the shortest notice.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, April 17th 1787:


To be Let and Entered To at the Term of Whitsunday. That commodious and well frequented INN in the town of Portsoy, occupied by the deceased George Riddoch, vintner, Portsoy, with the stables, chaise-house, cellars, and other conveniences thereto belonging. This inn is well known to travellers, has been well frequented, and a proper person might depend on meeting with encouragement and success.

The tacksman may have a chaise and horses with the whole or any part of the furniture as he inclines upon valuation, and credit given him for same.

There is a sufficient quantity of ground which the tacksman may also have, which is held under lease from the proprietor.

Any person inclining to take the premises may apply to Mr. James Milne, merchant in Portsoy, or James Imlach in Banff.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, March 11th 1788: -


That convenient and well frequented inn in the town of Portsoy with the stables, chaise house, and other offices thereto belonging, as lately occupied by the deceased George Ruddach, and presently possessed by Mrs. Ruddach, his widow.

There are several parks and fields of ground, which were held under lease by Mr. Ruddach, which the tenant may also have, or such parts of them as he inclines.

Any person wanting to take the same may apply to Mr. James Imlach, merchant, Portsoy and Mrs. Ruddach will show the house and grounds.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, March 25th 1788: -


That new built tenement lying on the east side of the burn of Portsoy, consisting of two stories with a large garret, The ground story contains four large rooms, a kitchen and cellars. The second story contains four good rooms; there is also a garden and a barn. For further particulars apply to Mr. James Young, surgeon in Portsoy.

N.B. If the above accommodation could suit two families the house is so convenient, having two entries that each family can lodge without interfering.


Aberdeen Journal, Monday, January 11th 1790: -


The house presently possessed by Mrs. Falconer of Durn sufficient to accommodate a large family, having a good kitchen, pantry, with a pump in the back court, dining parlour, and drawing room, 4 other rooms, stable for 4 horses, hay loft, chaise house, servants apartments, cellars for wine and beer, coal house, a neat summer house, and a well lighted room at the gate may be fitted up for a compting room at small expense. The whole is in good repair; the oldest part of the house having been new roofed little more than 12 months ago. On same tenement may be had another house of 4 rooms, 2 closets, and a garret if a purchaser inclines. For further particulars apply to Mr. James Gordon the proprietor.

N.B. Any person inclining to settle in business may be accommodated with cellars and lofts on easy terms also houses proper for carrying on manufacturing of cloth etc.


Aberdeen Journal, October 4th. 1790: -


That upon the 28th. day of October current, there is to be sold by public roup at Portsoy: -

The following subjects, belonging to and occupied by the Bleachfield Company in Portsoy.

I. All that TENEMENT of GROUND in Portsoy, consisting of 2000 square ells, with the whole Heckling Houses, Cellars, Lofts, and other conveniences built thereon, and the garden belonging thereto, occupied by the said Bleachfield Company, and held feu of the Earl of Findlater, for payment of twenty five shillings of yearly feu duty.

II. The REMAINDER of the LEASE upon the BLEACHFIELD GROUNDS, manufacturing and other Houses, presently occupied by the aid Company, with the whole profits and benefits arising therefrom, lying at the east end of the Town of Portsoy.

III. The REMAINDER of the LEASE upon the BEATING MILL and CROFT of LAND occupied by the said company at Cowhythe, upon the Burn of Boyne.

IV. The WHOLE MACHINERY and UTENSILS, with the Boilers, Vatts, Heckles, Twist Mills, and other implements belonging to the said Company and used by them for carrying on the foresaid manufactory at Portsoy.

These subjects are substantially built, and commodiously laid out, having plenty of water, situated at the east end of the town of Portsoy, and very fit for carrying on the manufactory, or any other business.

For further particulars, application may be made to James Milne, merchant in Portsoy, who will show the whole houses and grounds, with inventories of the machinery and manufacturing utensils, and the original leases and feu rights, any time previous to the sale, and any person wishing to conclude a private bargain previous to the sale may apply to the said James Milne, or John Chalmers merchant in Banff, who, will conclude for the whole.

The purchaser will be entitled to the houses built upon the aforesaid bleachfield grounds, and may have the whole stock of Threads and others, presently on hand, at a valuation, so that he may immediately enter upon the business.


1st May 1798 – St. Stephen’s Lodge of Freemasons.

It is recorded that on the 1st May 1798, William Ritchie, mason, who was Master, and John Brebner, Lintmill of Boyne, Treasurer of St. Stephen’s Lodge of Freemasons bought from John Peterkin, farmer in Skeith, the subjects in the Square Portsoy.

It is further recorded that about 40 years later, on the 28th March 1832, David Stevenson, mason (preses), John Fraser, weaver (treasurer) and Alexander Watson, merchant, (clerk) of the Society of the St. Stephen’s Lodge of Freemasons along with a committee of William Clark, James Scott, William McLeod, Alexander Burgess, John Brebner and Alexander Lawrence, sold the subjects belonging to them in the Square to Mr. William Minty, merchant in Portsoy, for £241. There is also a Lodge of the Royal Arch Chapter of Freemasons and a Chapter in connection with the Order of the Eastern Star.


1800 from the book “Scottish Estate Tweeds – Johnstons of Elgin” by E.P. Harrison 1995 :-


On 15th. March 1800 an entry in the invoice book of Johnstons of Elgin records the shipment of 60 matts from J. Van Edmont and Sons on a ship captained by Gehrt Hendrik Kuyper. The majority of the flax used by the mill was purchased locally from Robert Knight of Portsoy who may have imported it himself as it is described as “Dutch.”


Aberdeen Journal, November 9th. 1803: -


That large tenement in Portsoy formerly belonging to Mrs. Ogilvie of Culvie, consisting of very extensive granaries, coal and salt cellars.

The tenement adjoining to the above which formerly belonged to George Robertson.

That large tenement, offices, garden, in Portsoy, which were formerly possessed by James Robertson there.

The tenement and garden in Portsoy, formerly belonging to Mrs. Ogilvie.

A stable, barn and cornyard in Portsoy formerly belonging to Mr. Dawson, merchant.

(All these properties in Portsoy are connected and being near the harbour are remarkably well calculated for commercial purposes.)

Three fourth shares of the salt work and of the tenement in which it is carried on. These shares last year yielded a profit of upward L 78 and the work may be greatly extended.

A share of the Tobacco Work in Portsoy and of the tenement in which it is carried on.

A fourth share of the sloop “William” presently employed in the coasting trade.

(Note: – It is thought that this might be a winding-up of the assets of J. Robertson & Co who went bankrupt)


1809 From an old Manuscript by Dr. George Greig, Portsoy, dated 1843:


The manufacture of thread was also actively carried on, the works and bleachfield being situated in a hollow a little to the eastward of the town, where there was a fine supply of water. This work was commenced by Messrs Robertson, who erected the building and machinery, and formed the bleachfield. After him it was carried on by the Messrs Gordon Knight and Co. and about 1805 it fell into the hands of Mr. Forbes Watson, who tried it for a few years, when it was finally abandoned, and the machinery sold. Part of the premises and grounds is now occupied by Mr. Peterkin as a rope and twine factory. The importation and dressing of flax was also pursued for many years by Mr. Knight, and is carried on still, but on a very limited scale by Mr. Cheyne.


1810 From an old manuscript, by Dr. George Greig, Portsoy, dated 1843: -


The manufacture of salt was formerly carried on to a small extent; the works for which were situated on the west side of the old harbour, near the “Downie”; but after a long trial it turned out so unprofitable as to be abandoned more than thirty years ago.


Aberdeen Journal, Wednesday, September 15th 1819: -


To be sold in Portsoy. That house on the south side of the harbour, formerly belonging to the deceased Phebe Bainbridge, and now to her late husband Alexander Watson. This property is particularly well situated for herring curers or shopkeepers and further information respecting it will be given on application to P.C. Cameron, writer in Banff, who will show the title deeds and conclude a bargain.


Aberdeen Journal, July 31, 1821: -


That property in Portsoy belonging to Miss Dunbar, consisting of a substantial dwelling house, two stories high, and garrets with outhouses, and a walled garden, all in a complete state of repair; subject only to small feu-duty

Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, May 24th. 1911: -

PORTSOY NINETY YEARS AGO (c. 1820) – The following reference to the town of Portsoy is taken from a Gazetteer published in Edinburgh ninety years ago: -

“Portsoy, a considerable seaport of Scotland, in Banffshire. It is situated on a point of land projecting into the Moray Firth, which forms a safe harbour for vessels of considerable size. Besides sending out a number of vessels to the fishing, it carries on a considerable manufacture of thread and fine linens for the London and Nottingham markets. It contains about 1000 inhabitants.”

After perusing the above extract, readers will conclude that Portsoy has not been standing still. The population has nearly doubled, and it will be admitted, on looking around, that advancement has been made in various respects.



It is recorded that on the 28th March 1832, David Stevenson, mason (preses), John Fraser, weaver (treasurer) and Alexander Watson, merchant, (clerk) of the Society of the St. Stephen’s Lodge of Freemasons along with a committee of William Clark, James Scott, William McLeod, Alexander Burgess, John Brebner and Alexander Lawrence, sold the subjects belonging to them in the Square to Mr. William Minty, merchant in Portsoy, for £241. There is also a Lodge of the Royal Arch Chapter of Freemasons and a Chapter in connection with the Order of the Eastern Star.


The New Statistical Account of Scotland –

1842: – BONE MILL

There is a bone, thrashing, and sawmill, driven by the same water wheel which has lately been erected in the centre of the town.


From an old Manuscript by Dr. George Greig of Portsoy, dated 1843: -


The manufacture of bone manure is carried on to some extent by Mr. Smith, in an excellently constructed site of machinery situated near the meal mill, of which he is tacksman.

The large water wheel not only gives motion to the bone machinery, but also turns two circular saws, and a threshing machine, all situated under the same roof. In working the bone machinery, however, it is assisted by a fly-wheel, perhaps the largest of the kind in the north, which moves on the outside of the building within the courtyard. In the Low Street some distance from the bone mill, is the Burnside Distillery.


From an old Manuscript dated 1843: -


There are two Bank agencies in the town, viz.: – the North of Scotland, Mr. Moir and the Aberdeen, Mr. Murray. There are also four Insurance Agents, viz.: – Mr. Minty the Aberdeen; Mr. Murray the North of Scotland; Mr. Forbes the Caledonian and Mr. Moir the Marine. A receiving branch of the Banff Central Savings Bank was established also in 1837.


Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, November 10th. 1846: -


Our agricultural friends will be delighted to learn that Mr. John Allan, corn merchant, has become the purchaser of the Portsoy bone mill and other mills attached.


Banffshire Journal, March 30th 1847: -


All and whole of these premises in Portsoy formerly occupied by Mr. John Smith, situated near the Harbour, consisting of a dwelling house in thorough repair, and capable of accommodating a respectable family; to which there are Grain Lofts and Cellarage and a Writing Office attached. The Grain Lofts are capable of containing 400 Quarters in good keeping order and from their situation, shipments can be made at very little expense. Further information will be communicated on application to P. Murray, Solicitor in Portsoy, who is in possession of the Title Deeds.


Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, October 7th. 1891: -



Many things have happened in Portsoy since I was an urchin in it nearly half a century ago. On returning to it after many years’ absence the first thing that struck me was the remarkable improvement that had taken place in its sanitary condition and outward appearance. A cleaner, tidier place than Portsoy you could not find, I believe, in all Scotland. Forty-five years ago the case was very different, and the rhyme that was applied to its most pretentious neighbour might have been, with the necessary adaptation applied to Portsoy.

“a burrow’s toun

A kirk without a steepl

A midden stead at ilka door,

And uncivil people.”

In those days, whenever you walked through the little port, you met with the indifference of the inhabitants to sanitary law and aesthetic considerations. Schoolhendry Street, from beginning to end, was littered at intervals with whatever the good wives had to dispose of – ashes, rubbish, fish-guts, etc. What has become of all the squalid ducks and their duddy bairns that were wont to abound in that locality, and, between their mingled squeeling and quacking, made up such a lively chorus? I have never seen ducks like those since. They had no water to perform the necessary duties of the toilette, save what had come down directly from heaven, and when a shower was in the air there was a universal rejoicing among the duck fraternity – a loud paean sent up to Jupiter Pluvius for the precious gift. The rainy months of the year were the grand gala times for those creatures who had been ostracised from their natural element.

In my school days one of the principal resorts of the boys was a place called the “Bogs”, a low lying piece of ground of the nature indicated by the name, on the edge of which is now situated a handsome cottage originally occupied by the late Corporal Wm Paterson. It would be very difficult for the present young generation of Portsoyans to conceive what kind of place the Bogs was between forty and fifty years ago. In several parts there was nothing but an apparent unfathomable depth of fine mud, covered over with a thin, tough, elastic skin. We called these parts “cow’s bellies,” and it was our delight to congregate in the Bogs, and bound up and down on one of these wonderful “cow’s bellies.” At this distance of time, I am surprised at our hardihood and total indifference to danger, for it seems a miracle that some of us did not disappear through the thin elastic membrane and finish our career in this world there and then.

The town was supplied with water from a well, built in with solid masonry (it is still remaining) in the vicinity of the present meal mill, from which well there was always gushing a superabundant stream. All the girls met at the “Spout” (as the well was called) in the evenings to carry home “fraughts” for the daily wants of the households, and, of course, all the young lads attended to help them. What “chaffin’ and daffin’ ” used to go on at the Spout in those summer evenings and moonlight winter nights so long ago! And when it happened that the attentions of the lads were unwelcome or too persistent, or that the girls were disposed for some harmless mischief, what bursts of laughter and merriment would arise as the girls administered to the lads the copious baptism of cold water, and sent them in haste to a respectful distance! Almost all the voices are silent now.

The overflow of this well formed a burn, which meandered through the Bogs, and it was another part of our calisthenics to run races together over the green sward and jump this burn – shoes and stockings having been discarded, and our “breeks” rolled up above the knees. In those days we urchins conducted our physical education ourselves without the interference of any paid drillmaster, and our muscles developed very well and very harmoniously, and most of us grew into pretty fair specimens of humanity. Our “Physical Training College” was a roomy building, in which the ventilation was perfect; the Architect thereof being the same who constructed our bodies, and set them down in the said “Physical College.”

It will be remembered by the elder generation that the draining, planting, and improvement of the Bogs into a fine bit of natural scenery in the midst of the town was the work of the late Mr. Robert Wilson, when the people had the privilege of living under his administration as district factor of the Seafield Estates. The days of his wise and faithful rule were all too few. The enlightened and benificent reign of Mr. Robert Wilson has, happily been revived in the present factor or commissioner, Mr. Campbell.

Half a century ago or less there was a much broader space than at present between the Ropery and the sea-line. Year by year the tide has stealthily encroached on the land until now there is only a road of a few feet wide remaining; but even that would have been eaten away, and the long red-tiled gallery (the Ropery) would have disappeared long ago, but for the timely provision and prompt action of Mr. Robert Wilson. This intelligent, liberal minded, and energetic factor, so well known throughout the north of Scotland a skilful and successful agriculturist, checkmated Old Neptune in his sapping and mining operations by constructing along the High-water mark a rampart of great wooden stakes and logs firmly fastened together. From time to time this rampart has been repaired and renewed, and of late years it has been supplemented by a strong body of cement; and in the bright summer days the children find a delight full slide down its smooth slope when the tide has retired.

The depression in the land that has taken place behind the Ropery, and which is the real cause of the tidal encroachment, is also visible along the beach in front of the Links. The high pebbly strand has been pushed inland, and the small piece of ground, where a regular rotation of crops was cultivated, has visibly become smaller. The question occurs – is this depression likely to go at the same rate in the future? It is impossible to say. According to Mr. Darwin, one of the greatest of authorities, movements of elevation have succeeded movements of depression in some parts of South America. On the other hand, it appears for upwards of four centuries the land between Igaliko in 60 deg. 43 mins. N.L. and Disco in 69 degs. extending over 600 miles, has been steadily sinking. “Ancient buildings on low rocky islands have been gradually submerged, and experience has taught the aboriginal Greenlander never to build his hut near the water’s edge. In one case Moravian settlers have been obliged more than once to move inland the poles upon which their large boats were set, and the old poles still remain beneath the water as silent witnesses of the change.

It is not an impossibility that on some future day the green waves of the ocean may be rolling over the bones of those buried generations, and the old churchyard become the centre of a new and spacious harbour for the shipping of the place; that the east wall of the Misses Martin’s garden, over which, in the summer afternoons, the bonnie bairns paddle in the burn, or play on its green bank, may make way for a pier, on the edge of which, during the herring fishing, a row of smutty-faced, bare-legged urchins will be seen catching “gerricks.”



Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, September 28th 1852: -


On Tuesday the 12th day of October next, at One P.M. there will be Sold, by Public Roup, within Gray’s Inn, Portsoy: – ROSEACRE VILLA, in the immediate vicinity of Portsoy consisting of a cottage, Offices, Burdens and Policies. The cottage contains, On the Ground Floor: – commodious Kitchen, Laundry, Servant’s bed-room and Pantry, Milk House, Scullery and Coal Cellars &c. On the Second Floor: – Dining-room and Drawing-room (spacious and very handsome) Bed-room and Dressing-room, with Servant’s pantry, Store presses &c. On the Upper Storey: – three commodious Bed-rooms and Spore-room, &c.

Detached are good Slated Offices, consisting of Barn, Stable, Cow-house, Wash-house with loft, Gig-house, Servant’s Sleeping place, Poultry houses &c. Also fruit and Kitchen Gardens.

About seven acres of fertile land, surrounding the cottage, may be rented from the proprietor, the Earl of Seafield.

The Cottage (which is very handsome) and Offices were recently built. These, and the laying out the Gardens and Policies, cost upwards of £2000. Entry to the Cottage, Gardens, and Policies may be given at Martinmas first.

Further particulars will be communicated either by Andrew McEwen Esq., Commercial Bank, Banff, or John Forbes, Solicitor, Portsoy, the latter of whom will show the title deeds and Articles of the Roup.

Portsoy, September 27, 1852.



Mr. Thomas Anderson published the first copy of the “Banffshire Reporter” from his offices at 5 Low Street Portsoy. Business taken over by the Calder brothers from the 14th. June 1884. Publication ceased in 1920. Copies of this newspaper from 1869 can be seen on film at Macduff Library.


Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, June 1st. 1858 :-


This new building situated in the Durn Road was formally opened on Thursday last (27th. May), in the presence of several of the trustees and others. It is a very handsome and substantial slated building, measuring about 34 feet by 17 feet within walls, is 13 feet high, and supplied with neat folding desks, mounted on fixed metal supports. Ventilation appears to have been particularly attended to, there being three perforated wooden ventilators, with hinged covers, in the ceiling, besides opening pieces in each window, hung on pivots. It is seated to accommodate about seventy pupils, and is built on a site kindly granted by the Earl of Seafield, and surrounded by a strong wooden paling, the gift of the same nobleman. A grant of £107 towards its erection having been obtained from the Government, it becomes subject to Government regulations, as well as inspection. This, it is hoped, will be a sufficient guarantee to secure the efficiency of the seminary, which is open to pupils of every religious denomination. We trust the promoters of this institution, who have so perseveringly exerted themselves, will not be allowed to sit down under the burden of debt for which they are still liable, but that they will be aided in wiping it off by the community who will be benefited by the result of their efforts.


Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, 21st. June 1859: -


We have now a snug Police Office. As yet, however, the only sign board required – “To let” – is that which is found on but few houses in Portsoy. However, it was much wanted as the old Lock-up at the shore was not at all suited for the purpose, and we often wondered that parties put into it, escaped with their lives.


Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, June 4th, 1861: -


A writer in “Notes and Queries” asks for information as to Fordyce Castle, in this county. We are sorry to say that local information is entirely at fault on the subject. There is nothing about the Castle in the records of the parish; nor, so far as we can learn, is there any information as to the history of the Castle in the archives of Cullen House, the residence of the noble proprietor, the Earl of Seafield. By whom, and for what purpose, it was built is involved in mystery. It is understood that it was built by one of the Ogilvie’s, as a jointure-house for his lady. But this is mere conjecture. So also seems the idea that it was originally built as a domicile for the priest of the parish. Above the entrance, the Castle bears the date 1592. Its lower apartments are strongly vaulted with stone arches. It has also several of the accessories of a place of strength, such as gun-holes &c, in abundance. It was never destroyed, but by the powerful hand of time – which is now beginning to tell upon even the oaken rafters. The walls, however, are strong as ever, and may stand for centuries to come. The Castle has constantly been inhabited up to this term, when the tenants were requested to remove, as it seems to be the noble intention of the proprietor to give it a thorough repair.


Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, June 27th 1865: -


A good many improvements in the way of erecting new buildings and repairing others, have been effected in “The Port” of late years. Among the principal improvements is the new Union Bank at the corner of Roseacre and Seafield Street – a building which forms a decided ornament to the place, being in fact one of the best, if not the best, of which it can at present boast. This handsome building was erected this year, and is in the course of completion. It is of two storeys, and has the principal frontage towards Seafield Street. This is built of freestone from the Elgin quarries, and has considerable architectural merit. The design is good, and the mason work has been creditably executed. The elevation facing Roseacre Street, which forms the approach to the railway station, is built of blue stone from the Hill of Durn. It is of plainer pretensions than the frontage towards Seafield Street, but is quite in keeping with the handsome shop of Mr. Guthrie, opposite, and the entrance to the station thus presents a more finished appearance. Attached to the bank there is a handsome new dwelling house for the agent Mr. P. Murray, showing a handsome porch towards Roseacre Street. From the bank, a wall runs back along Roseacre Street towards the railway station enclosing the garden ground behind. The building is enclosed on Roseacre Street by a dwarf wall and metal railing, and the space within is done up with shrubbery, so that the whole will present rather a tasteful appearance. The interior is very nicely fitted up, in the most approved style. The architect of the building was Mr. Petrie, Elgin. The contractors for the mason work were Messrs. Humphrey and Rennie, Elgin. The carpenter was Mr. George Gray, Portsoy (who, by the way, unintentionally performed rather an astonishing somersault from the top of the building during the progress of the work, alighting on some debris on the ground without sustaining any injury). The contracting slater was Mr. Walker, Banff. The plaster work was originally undertaken by Mr. Henry Ferguson, Portsoy, but was completed by Mr. Simpson, Elgin. The plumber was Mr. Hunter, Elgin. The cost, we should say from appearance, would approach to something like £2000.

Among the other new buildings in Portsoy may be mentioned a large dwelling-house just being erected in Schoolhendry Street by Captain Sutherland of the “Moir”. It is a two storey house, and presents rather an imposing appearance. It is situated on the summit of the Brae, overtopping the dwellings in the neighbourhood, so that the worthy Captain, keeping his weather eye open, is sure to see it immediately on rounding Troup Head. Another new building has been erected in Barbank Street by Mr. Alexander Barclay, mason. This will also add to the ornamentation of the town.


Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, September 1st. 1868: -


Enquiries are in progress with the view of running a traction steam engine and wagons on the route between Portsoy and Buckie to facilitate the transmission of goods to and from the railway. The scheme is perfectly practical, and the engine and three or four wagons would carry a load of about 20 tons, travelling at a steady pace of four miles an hour. If the merchants in Buckie, Cullen and Portsoy, and others along the route, promise a sufficient tonnage for carriage, we understand the new mode of transport will be commenced immediately. The project is being promoted by an energetic gentleman unconnected with the district. The coastside roads are in excellent condition, and all that is necessary to prevent them from suffering from the traction-engine is to cover the wheels with india rubber.


Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, April 20th 1869: -


The Royal Oak Hotel, belonging to Mr. A. McBeath, Aberdeen, and occupied by Mr. Joseph Webster, was purchased the other week, by private bargain, by Mr James Forbes of the Commercial Hotel, here.

New Hotel – We understand that Mr. Joseph Webster of the Royal Oak Hotel has purchased for £550, that property in Seafield Street, belonging to, and long occupied by Mr. Forbes, solicitor, and presently tenanted by Mr. A. Murray, solicitor, for the purpose of turning it into a hotel, for which end, we believe, the house was originally built and fitted up. The property from its extent, commodiousness, and close proximity to the Railway Station, is admirably adapted for such a purpose, and will remedy a felt want in the town, which has long been noted for the smallness of the accommodation it could afford to commercial travellers and others. From what is already known of Mr. Webster’s public spirit and active habits, we cannot but augur success and prosperity to the new establishment.


Banffshire Reporter, October 15th, 1875: -


Seeing that our new clock tower will cost the town a good sum of money, it is but right that it should be utilised and turned to the best account possible. From its very elevated position it must form a splendid landmark at sea, and it has been suggested that were a sufficient light placed on it, it would not only form a splendid harbour light, but would also light the greater part of the town. This idea is doubtless a somewhat novel one, but it is not the less worthy of consideration on that account. There can at least be little doubt that a good strong light placed on the tower, besides serving the harbour, would light the whole of Seafield Street, Burnside Street, and parts of Church Street, if not some parts of the High Street; and unfortunately there is still but little prospect of these streets, or any of the others, being lighted by any other means. The tower has already been built to the level of the ridgestone of the church, and may thus be said to be progressing rapidly, so that it is possible that our public clock may yet “ring out the old year and in the new.”


Banffshire Reporter, Friday, July 14th, 1876: -


This new acquaintance, which for some days past has undoubtedly been the observed of all observers, began, in the most quiet and unostentatious manner, to warn us of the ceaseless flight of time, on the evening of Wednesday last (July 12th), and has continued to do so with commendable regularity, but did so in mute silence until yesterday (July 13th.), when not only the hours, but also the half-hours and quarters were rung out by the second and third bells, the hours being struck on the large one, which has a deep and musical sound, and forms a pleasant contrast with the sound of any of the old bells of the town, which still from time to time let their less harmonious voices be heard.

Though the work of erection may not be completed, and though the interior of the tower is still in a very unfinished state, the clock is now fully serving all the ends for which it has been erected, and while we write, having first denoted that the last quarter of the hour was finished, by striking “ting dong” four times, it has rung out the hour of 9.0 pm. Not having had leisure to see it since its erection, we must forbear further notice of it in the meantime. It will at least be ready to “strike the hour for opening the bazaar” and on that day will doubtless let the musical powers of its chimes be fully heard.

Note: – A unique feature of the clock is that the north-east face (looking towards the sea), bears two number elevens. The workman who fixed the Roman numerals erred, in that he placed the number nine as XI instead of IX.


Banffshire Reporter, September 8th. 1876: -


If the improvements in our small town have not been rapid or on a scale of great magnitude, they have at least been progressive, so that natives of the town who have been a few years absent will see a good many changes to the better when they come back. In South High Street, Mr. John Sutherland, Druggist, has effected a very great improvement by a complete renovation of the house which at one time belonged to the late Mr. Andrew, watchmaker, in which he has fitted up a very elegant and commodious shop, and made the whole premises look as good as new.

But perhaps in no part of the town has greater improvement been made than in Schoolhendry. Some years ago the late Mr. Smith, shipbuilder, effected very considerable improvements on the property acquired by him in that street; and within the present summer his relative, Captain Smith of the “Guiding Star”, has turned the small, but tidy little house purchased by him from Mr. Proctor, into a handsome double-roomed house of two storeys – at least of one storey and roomy attics. The contractors in this case are: – Messrs. Rhind & Rae, masons; Mr. William Donald, carpenter: and Mr. J. Watson, slater. In building houses of this construction, it is not always true that “ a penny hained is a penny gained,” for while a foot or two of additional breadth can add but little to the cost, it may make a world of difference to the accommodation and the comfort.

A little way up the street, Mr. William Murray, merchant – or perhaps, more properly, his son, Mr. John Murray – has effected another very marked improvement on the old tumbledown property on the east side of the street, next in order to that belonging to the heirs of the late Mr. James Smith. The old house on the north side of it has been renovated, re-roofed, tiled harled, and made to look as good as new; and fronting the street, but a little way back from it, a handsome two- storey house has been built. This improvement is all the more marked that the property in its previous ruinous condition was a perfect eyesore. Mr. Murray has also effected another considerable improvement by adding a handsome attic storey and slating his business premises.

Mrs. Lovie having acquired the property in Church Street, which at one time belonged to Mrs. Lorimer, and more recently to the heirs of the late Captain Paterson, is effecting a considerable improvement in that quarter.

The ugly bank extending from the shop door of Mr. Rhind, saddler, to the corner opposite the old school, has been taken away, and the ground reduced till about the level of the street, and at the corner a shop and house are in the course of erection, which, when completed will very greatly improve the appearance of one of the most public thoroughfares of the town.

Then to say nothing of the New Schools, Mr. Chivas, fish curer, has feued the ground whereon in former years stood the homestead of Mr. Charles Thomson, beside the Bridge at Burnside, and is about to erect thereon a handsome cottage, after designs by Mr. Millar, architect, Cullen, whose name is a sufficient guarantee that it will be both elegant and commodious. The front we understand is intended to be of the same blue stone as St. Andrew’s Hall, and several other houses in Castle Street, Banff, are made of.


From an article published in the “Free Press” on Monday 18th December 1876 and re-published in the “Banffshire Reporter”, December 22nd. 1876: -

PORTSOY – Communities, like individuals, cannot be the worse for “Seein’ themselves as others see them.” A gentleman who, if we mistake not, holds the office of Inspector of Registrars, and who has thus ample opportunity of visiting every parish in Scotland, has communicated a series of articles to the press under the head of “Epitaphs and Inscriptions from Burial Grounds in the North -East of Scotland.” These articles, which are intended for publication in another form, are enriched by such antiquarian gleanings as the author of them has been enabled to pick up. One recently appeared on the Churchyard of Fordyce, and from one on Portsoy – which appeared in the Free Press of Monday, December 18th 1876, we make the following extracts. We merely add that these articles generally appear to be of a very appreciative character, and display no small research: -

St. Colm’s chapel stood at the Aird, ” hard by the toune (of Portsoy) where now (1724) is a large meeting house, lately buildit.” This was possibly the Episcopal Church which, in 1746, was destroyed by the troops of the Duke of Cumberland.

The town of Portsoy locally situated within the parish of Fordyce, and portions of adjoining districts, were made into a preaching station in connection with the Established Church in 1741. In 1836 it was erected into a quod sacra parish under the name of Portsoy.

The church, which stands in a prominent part of the town, was built in 1815. It has undergone many improvements of late, and a clock tower, quite recently erected by public subscription, adds greatly to the appearance both of the church and the town, while a clock and chime of bells, which were placed in the tower at the expense of Mr. F.P. Wilson, a native of the place, and who has been a successful merchant abroad, adds much to the comfort of the inhabitants, and to the interest of visitors. The old kirk bell, now upon the schoolhouse at Portsoy bears: – FOR THE USE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH PORTSOY, JOHN SPRICHT, ROTTERDAM, 1746.

The Loch of Soy is the only fresh water lake in the parish of Fordyce, and the town of Portsoy, which is named from its proximity to the point where the burn of Soy falls into the sea, was erected into a burgh of barony in 1550. In 1681, Sir Patrick Ogilvie of Boyne had liberty to hold a weekly market at Portsoy (Acta Parl.)

A place called the Castle Brae is the only evidence of an old castle having been at Portsoy. But although there is no mention of a castle either by Monnipennie or Gordon, the town had doubtless been, in old times, protected by a place of strength.

Portsoy has a small but safe harbour. Besides some picturesque old buildings, it contains many good dwelling-houses and shops, also two branch banks; and, since the introduction of the railway, of which it is the terminus, the trade of the place has very much increased. It contains a population of over 1800 inhabitants, and has a widely circulated weekly newspaper the Banffshire Reporter, the editor of which is the author of a volume of poems in which there are many pieces of local interest. The district is thus spoken of in Thomson’s Rhyming Geography of Scotland (Dunfermline, 1): -

Portsoy lies eight miles west of Banff,

And Cullen lies fourteen,

Both on the coast; and Portsoy is

A thriving town and clean.

Portsoy was famous at one time for a sort of serpentine rock, found in the vicinity, of which chimney-piece and other ornaments were made. It was known as Portsoy marble at home, and as Scotch marble abroad. There are also interesting specimens of mica-schist, asbestos of a greenish tint, and a flesh coloured granite, unknown (it is said) in any other part of the world except in Arabia, and, which, when polished exhibits figures bearing a fancied resemblance to the characters of the Arabic alphabet. (Stat Acc.)

The existence of the serpentine, and some other peculiarities of the district, are thus summed up in Jack’s Rhyming Geography of Aberdeen, Banff and Moray (1876): -

Fordyce for schools has long been known,

Portsoy for Serpentine,

Sandend’s on coast, while Cowhythe Hill

Deflects the plummet line


Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, June 19th 1877: -


That property, formerly the Society’s School and Schoolhouse in Schoolhendry Street (Renamed Institute Street), has been purchased by Mr. Murray, Schoolhendry, to be, we believe, converted into a store and showroom for upholstery.


Banffshire Reporter, Saturday, June 28th 1879: -


On Monday last, while a number of the masons engaged in the erection of the new premises for Mr. McRobie, merchant, were in the act of raising a large stone lintel to its proper place, something about the fixing of the scaffolding gave way and some of the men fell, the lintel at the same time slipping down on two or three of them, bruising some of them rather severely. But no bones were broken, and those hurt are recovered or recovering.


(Book 2/Commerce & Buildings 1550-1879)

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