Forfarshire - Encyclopedia

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FORFARSHIRE, or Angus, an eastern county of Scotland, bounded N. by the shires of Kincardine and Aberdeen, W. by Perthshire, S. by the Firth of Tay and E. by the North Sea. It has an area of 559,171 acres, or 873.7 sq. m. The island of Rossie and the Bell Rock belong to the shire.

Forfarshire is characterized by great variety of surface and may be divided physically into four well-marked sections. In the most northerly of these many of the rugged masses of the Grampians are found; this belt is succeeded by Strathmore, or the Howe of Angus, a fertile valley, from 6 to 8 m. broad, which is a continuation of the Howe of the Mearns, and runs south-westwards till it enters Strathearn, to the south-west of Perth; then come the Sidlaw Hills and a number of isolated heights, which in turn give way to the plain of the coast and the Firth. The mountains are all in the northern division and belong to the Binchinnin group (sometimes rather inexactly called the Braes of Angus) of the Grampian ranges. Among the highest masses, most of which lie on or near the confines of the bordering counties, are Glas Maol (3502 ft.) on the summit of which the shires of Aberdeen, Forfar and Perth meet, Cairn-na-Glasha (3484), Fafernie (3274), Broad Cairn (3268), Creag Leacach (3238), Tolmount (3143), Tom Buidhe (3140), Driesh (3105), Mount Keen (3077) and Mayar (3043), while peaks of upwards of 2000 ft. are numerous. The Sidlaw Hills - the greater part of which, however, belongs to Perthshire - are much less lofty and of less striking appearance. They have a breadth of from 3 to 6 m., the highest points within the county being Craigowl Hill (1493 ft.), Auchterhouse Hill (1399) and Gallow Hill (1242). None of the rivers is navigable, and only three are of any importance. The Isla, rising in Cairn-na-Glasha, flows southwards, then turns S.E. and finally S.W. till it enters the Tay after a course of 45 m. Its chief tributaries on the right are the Alyth, Ericht and Lunan, and on the left the Newton, Melgam and Dean. Near Bridge of Craig is the fall of Reekie Linn (70 ft.), so named from the fact that when the stream is in flood the spray rises in a dense cloud like smoke (reek). Near old Airlie Castle are the cascades called the Slugs of Auchrannie. The North Esk, formed by the confluence of the Lee and Mark at Invermark, after a south-easterly course of 28 m. enters the North Sea 3 m. N. of Montrose. On the right bank it receives the West Water and Cruick and on the left the Tarf and Luther. It gives the title of earl of Northesk to a branch of the Carnegie family. The South Esk rises in the Grampians near Mount Fafernie and not far from its source forms the Falls of Bachnagairn; after flowing towards the south-east, it bends eastwards near Tannadice and reaches the North Sea at Montrose, the length of its course being 48 m. Its principal affluents are the Prosen on the right and the Noran on the left. It supplies the title of earl of Southesk to another branch of the Carnegies. The lakes are small, the two largest being the Loch of Forfar and the mountain-girt Loch Lee (1 m. long by 4 m. wide). Lintrathen (circular in shape and about 4 m. across), to the north of Airlie Castle, supplies Dundee with drinking water. The glens of the Forfarshire Grampians are remarkable for their beauty, and several of them for the wealth of their botanical specimens. The largest and finest of them are Glen Isla, in which are the ruins of Forter Castle, destroyed by Argyll in 1640, and the earl of Airlie's shooting-lodge of the Tulchan; Glen Clova, near the entrance to which stands Cortachy Castle, the seat of the earl of Airlie; Glen Esk and Glen Prosen.

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A great earth fracture traverses this county from near Edzell on the N.E. to Lintrathen Loch on the S.W. Between Cortachy and the south-western boundary this fault runs in Old Red Sandstone, but north-east of that place it forms the junction line of Silurian and Old Red; and in a general way we may say that on the N.W. side of the fault the metamorphosed Silurian rocks are found, while the remainder of the county is occupied by the Old Red Sandstone. On the margin of the disturbance the Silurian rocks are little-altered grey and green clay slates with bands of pebbly grit; farther towards the N.W. we find the same rocks metamorphosed into mica schists and gneisses with pebbly quartzites. Rising up through the schists between Carn Bannock and Mount Battock is a great mass of granite. The Old Red Sandstone extends from this county into Perthshire and Kincardineshire; here some 20,000 ft. of these deposits are seen; an important part being formed of volcanic tuffs and lavas which are regularly interbedded in the sandstones and conglomerates. North of Dundee some of the lower beds are traversed by intrusive dolerites, and Dundee Law is probably the remains of an old vent through which some of the contemporaneous lavas, &c., were discharged. The Old Red Rocks have been subjected to a good deal of folding, as may be seen along the coast. The principal direction of strike is from N.E. to S.W. A synclinal fold occupies Strathmore, and between Longforgan and Montrose the northern extension of the Sidlaw Hills is an anticlinal fold. Two fish-bearing beds occur in the county; from the lower one many large Eurypterids have been obtained. The well-known paving flags of Arbroath belong to the lower part of the formation. The Upper Old Red Sandstone is found only in one spot about a mile north of Arbroath. During the Glacial period the ice travelled south-eastward across Strathmore and over the Sidlaw Hills; abundant evidence of this transporting agent is to be seen in the form of morainic deposits, the most striking of which is the great transverse barrier of Glenairn in the valley of the S. Esk, half a mile in length and about 200 ft. high. Relics of the same period are found round the coast in the form of raised beaches at Too, 50 and 25 ft. above the present sea-level.

Climate and Agriculture

On the whole the climate is healthy and favourable to agricultural pursuits. The mean temperature for the year is 47.3° F., for January 38° and for July 59°. The average annual rainfall is 34 in., the coast being considerably drier than the uplands. In the low-lying districts of the south the harvest is nearly as early as it is in the rest of Scotland, but in the north it is often late. The principal wheat districts are Strathmore and the neighbourhood of Dundee and Arbroath; and the yield is well up to the best Scottish average. Barley, an important crop, has increased steadily. Oats, however, though still the leading crop, have somewhat declined. Potatoes are mostly grown near the seaboard in the higher ground; turnips also are largely raised. The northern belt, where it is not waste land, has been turned into sheep walks and deer forests. The black-faced sheep are the most common in the mountainous country; cross-bred sheep in the lowlands. Though it is their native county (where they date from 1808), polled Angus are not reared so generally as in the neighbouring shire of Aberdeen, but shorthorns are a favourite stock and Irish cattle are imported for winter-feeding. Excepting in the vicinity of the towns there are no dairy farms. Horses are raised successfully, Clydesdales being the commonest breed, but the small native garrons are now little used. Pigs also are reared. Save perhaps in the case of the crofts, or very small holdings of less than 10 acres, farm management is fully abreast of the times.

Other Industries

The staple industries are the jute and flax manufactures. Their headquarters are in Dundee, but they flourish also at other places. Shipbuilding is carried on at Dundee, Arbroath and Montrose. The manufactures of jams, confectionery, leather, machinery, soap and chemicals, are all of great and growing value. Sandstone quarries employ many hands and the deep-sea fisheries, of which Montrose is the centre, are of considerable importance. The netting of salmon at the mouth of the North Esk is also a profitable pursuit.

Two railway companies serve the county. The North British, entering from the south by the Tay Bridge, follows the coast north-eastwards, sending off at Montrose a branch to Bervie. The Caledonian runs up Strathmore to Forfar, whence it diverges due east to Guthrie, where it again resumes its north-easterly course to Dubton and Marykirk; it reaches Dundee from Perth by the shore of the estuary of the Tay, and sends branches from Dundee to Kirriemuir via Monikie and Forfar and to Alyth Junction via Newtyle, while a short line from Dubton gives it touch with Montrose.

Population and Government

The population was 277,735 in 1891, and 284,083 in 1901, when 1303 spoke Gaelic and English, and 13 Gaelic only. The chief towns are Arbroath (pop. in 1901, 22,398), Brechin (8941), Broughty Ferry (10,484), Carnoustie (5204), Dundee (161,173), Forfar (11,397), Kirriemuir (4096), Monifieth (2134) and Montrose (12,427). Forfarshire returns one member to Parliament. It is a sheriffdom and there is a resident sheriff-substitute at Dundee and another at Forfar, the county town, and courts are held also at Arbroath. In addition to numerous board schools there are secondary schools at Dundee, Montrose, Arbroath, Brechin, Forfar and Kirriemuir, and technical schools at Dundee and Arbroath. Many of the elementary schools earn grants for higher education. The county council and the Dundee and Arbroath town councils expend the "residue" grant in subsidizing science and art and technical schools and classes, including University College, the textile school, the technical institute, the navigation school, and the workshop schools at Dundee, the technical school at Arbroath, besides cookery, dairy, dress-cutting, laundry, plumbing and veterinary science classes at different places.


In the time of the Romans The country now known as Forfarshire was inhabited by Picts, of whose occupation there are evidences in remains of Weems, or underground houses. Traces of Roman camps and stone forts are common, and there are vitrified forts at Finhaven, Dumsturdy Muir, the hill of Laws near Monifieth and at other points. Spearheads, battleaxes, sepulchral deposits, Scandinavian bronze pins, and other antiquarian relics testify to periods of storm and stress before the land settled down into order, towards which the Church was a powerful contributor. In the earliest days strife was frequent. The battle in which Agricola defeated Galgacus is supposed to have occurred in the Forfarshire Grampians (A.D. 84); the Northumbrian King Egfrith and the Pictish king Burde fought near Dunnichen in 685, the former being slain; conflicts with the Danes took place at Aberlemno and other spots; Elpin king of the Scots was defeated by Aengus in the parish of Liff in 730; at Restennet, about 835, the Picts and Scots had a bitter encounter. In later times the principal historical events, whether of peace or war, were more immediately connected with burghs than with the county as a whole. There is some doubt whether the county was named Angus, its title for several centuries, after a legendary Scottish prince or from the hill of Angus to the east of the church of Aberlemno. It was early governed by hereditary earls and was made a hereditary sheriffdom by David II. The first earl of Angus (by charter of 1389) was George Douglas, an illegitimate son of the 1st earl of Douglas by Margaret Stuart, who was countess of Angus in her own right. On the death of the 1st and only duke of Douglas, who was also 13th earl of Angus, in 1761, the earldom merged in the dukedom of Hamilton. Precisely when the shire became known by the name of the county town has not been ascertained, but probably the usage dates from the 16th century. Among old castles are the roofless square tower of Red Castle at the mouth of the Lunan; the tower of the castle of Auchinleck; the stronghold of Inverquharity near Kirriemuir; the castle of Finhaven; the two towers of old Edzell Castle; the ruins of Melgund Castle, which are fairly complete; the small castle of Newtyle, and the old square tower and gateway of the castle of Craig.

See A. Jervise, Memorials of Angus and Mearns (Edinburgh, 1895); Land of the Lindsays (Edinburgh, 1882); Epitaphs and Inscriptions (Edinburgh, 1879); Earl of Crawford, Lives of the Lindsays (London, 1835); Sir W. Fraser, History of the Carnegies (Edinburgh, 1867); A. H. Millar, Historical Castles and Mansions (Paisley, 1890); G. Hay, History of Arbroath (Arbroath, 1876); D. D. Black, History of Brechin (Edinburgh, 1867).

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