Extracts from ‘Midmar – Some Random Memories’

By E R Lumsden, MA (son of Edward Lumsden, Minister of Midmar 1859 - 1904)

First published in ‘The Deeside Field’

(date unknown)

‘I remember the days and the ways of the old Manse life; the glebe worked by my father along with a adjoining croft; the spring ploughing by the haughty old carriage mare and a docile black ox whose friendly overtures she scorned with elated head; the normal routine of farm work as the seasons went round; the most interesting cart journeys to the Hill o’ Fare for peats from the Minister’s Moss, and gravel from the hill sandhole; the neighbouring ministers, their ‘shalts’ and conveyances (machines) of various fashions.

Aye, and I remember the various streams and streamlets through the glebe lands – each field had its running water – so that I think if I were taken blindfolded to any of them I could, even yet, tell by which burn and stretch thereof I stood from the distinctive gurgle of its waters. I hear yet in remembrance the rich-toned bell of a Sabbath morning ring out from the noble eminence of the Church up the hill to the north, at 8, 10 and 11.30 o’clock. On fine days, with a west wind blowing we could hear the Free Church bell from the top of the parish, three or four miles off, confirm the calls in less sonorous but tuneful utterance. Those morning bells, impressing one with the quiet of the day and district, constituted an abiding memory for me. The first bell at 8 o’clock was to set the clock by; the 10 o’clock bell was to let folks know it was time to dress and get ready, and the 11.30 bell was of course the service and ‘ringing-in’ bell. One memory leads to another and I recall many of the quaint church-goers of my early day; the large congregations; the solemnity of the Communion Sunday (once a year only) with its crowded three ‘tables’, the men in their black broad-cloth coats of antiquated cut, and specially subdued in conversation and bearing – all which impressed my youthful mind profoundly.’

‘I remember well many of the Manse servants’ stories about the parish e.g. the Blackwater story. ….. The tradition was quite strong and generally accepted that if you went at 12 o’clock at night to the Black-water, there would be seen to uprise therefrom on the north side two men who would engage in mortal combat; that one would kill the other in the fight, and then bury him in the marsh. So strong was this belief that I have heard of responsible, respected farmer-men waiting till they got company – and possibly a few fortifiers at the Cottage Alehouse ! – before they would take the road past the kirkyard and this weird water, and, failing such company, calling in the services of the old bellman and sexton at Kirkstyle to convoy them safe through this wooded stretch of road out into the open at Lurg Road.’ (Note: Black-water is just by the old Kirk).

‘I remember well the great never-completely-solved Dunecht mystery of 1881, when the body of the Earl of Balcarres was stolen from the family Mausoleum, and was eventually found buried in a wood near by. The facts of the case are recorded in Wm. Roughead’s ‘Scots Trials.’

‘Talking of body-stealing, I heard the other day from a Midmar man, now resident in Aberdeen, of what was I imagine the last case of the kind in Midmar. One dark morning the forester's men – including two whom I afterwards knew quite well – were on their way to work at the castle offices when they were astonished to find a spring-cart standing unattended at the roadside by the entrance to the churchyard. Remembering that there had been a burial the day before, they were making hurriedly for the cart when two men rushed out bearing a burden in a sack, which they threw into the cart and started off down the road at a gallop. It was learned later that they had stopped at the inn at Echt and had some drink, leaving the body in the cart the while. My informant said that his father, also a forester’s man, frequently told this story as an undoubted fact’

‘The druidical stone circles, the Crows’ Wood, the Comers Brae and its traditions of battle, are further centres of old recollections, but along with many, many others they cannot meantime be allowed to add to the already undue length of the above rambling trivialities.’