Mary Beaton (Copyright acknowledged)

The Ogilvies of Boyne were very important round here for more than 200 years. Sir Walter Ogilvie was body squire to two kings, James III and James IV, and in 1486 was given the thanage of Boyne. He was Sheriff of Banff, and married an heiress, Margaret Sinclair of Deskford and Findlater. His great-grandson, Alexander, in 1562 entertained the young Mary Queen of Scots at Craig of Boyne. “After dining at Craig she proceeded to Banff, where she supped and slept”. Alexander caught the eye of her lady-in-waiting, Mary Beaton, and married her in 1566. Do you remember the song “Yestreen the Queen had four Maries, Tonight she’ll hae but three. There was Mary Beaton, and Mary Seton, and Mary Carmichael, and me”? Alexander built Boyne Castle, a fitting place for a lady brought up in the chateaux of France, but it bankrupted him.

The Ogilvies were all intermarried. Alexander’s son James married Isobel Ogilvie of Dunlugas, and when he died she married an Ogilvie of Glassaugh. Their daughter Marie married an Ogilvie of Carnousie and Knock, and her older brother James married a sister of Lord Findlater, another Ogilvie. That James had a short but interesting life. In 1623 he and five other Ogilvies was up in court for attacking and beating the minister of Forres in church. That didn’t stop him being appointed a JP for Banffshire later the same year. Two years later he went overseas, though we don’t know where, and was never heard of again. He wisely left a will naming executors to look after the children “till they be of perfect age of fourteen”.  

His son Walter lived through the Civil War. First he backed the Covenant against the King, and in 1645 Montrose’s army swept through the north. “The Laird himself kept the Craig of Boyne, wherein he was safe, but his haill lands for the most part were burnt up and destroyed”. His views changed, as he found the Covenanters too extreme, and he became an “Engager” and supported the King. So he was on the losing side when Cromwell won the battle of Worcester, and was disciplined by the church when he got home. However, in 1660 there was the Restoration, and Sir Walter (note the ‘Sir’) now was on the winning side. 

His son Sir Patrick was the greatest of the line, for 24 years one of the two MPs for Banffshire, and a Judge of the Court of Session, as Lord Boyne, “one of the most remarkable and many-sided men Banffshire has ever produced (Alistair Tayler)”. He did a lot for Portsoy, finding the funds for building the harbour, and protecting the marble quarries. But he never could balance his books, and there was public scandal about his young third wife and Campbell of Cawdor. And he was a Jacobite in the days of Queen Anne. He claimed to have had an interview with the Queen, and to have persuaded her to recognize her half-brother (the Old Pretender, James VIII and III) as her heir. In the end in 1705 he was bought out by his cousin, the Earl of Findlater and Seafield, who let the family stay on in the castle but took the estates, the land between Banff and Portsoy.

In fact Sir Patrick’s son James was a committed and active Jacobite, over in France from 1707, plotting to bring a French fleet. In 1708 he landed at Gamrie to get ready for them, but the fleet turned tail. Of course in 1715 he was back for the real rebellion. He was Brigadier Ogilvie at the Battle of Sheriffmuir (“Some say that we won, and some say that they won”) in 1716, and after that we have a proclamation from him to “All noblemen, barons… and all others the fencible men .., to meet and convene at the Gallowhill of Banff”. No-one came, and it was the last straw for Lord Findlater, who ejected James’s wife from Boyne Castle. He fled to France. The Stuart royal family paid for his son’s funeral in 1717. James died in 1728, the last Ogilvie of Boyne.

The Boyne townhouse is still there on Church Street in Banff, with a later facing, but the core is there.

This picture of St Andrew’s is more than a century old. It has not changed much

The last large-scale religious persecution in Scotland was in 1746. After that there were still penal laws on the statute book, and religious minorities often had reason to grumble, but never again were troops used to burn down churches. The heartland of the Episcopal Church was the north-east of Scotland, and the intention was to extirpate it. They said you could go from the Tay up and round to the Spey and beyond, and never be out of sight of the column of smoke from a burning Episcopal chapel. There was a fire risk in bigger towns, so the chapels in Stonehaven and Peterhead and Inverness were demolished, and the bill for the demolition was sent to the congregation.

Two of the chapels burnt down were St Andrew’s Chapel in Banff, and the chapel at Portsoy (New Durn). After about five years St Andrew’s was rebuilt on the same site, and the present St Andrew’s is a rebuild of the replacement. It may well be that a future archaeologist will find traces of burning in the foundations of the present church. St Andrew’s had to disobey its bishop in order to become legally qualified to rebuild. The new “Qualified” chapel by law had to have a clergyman ordained in England. For forty years they sent north-east loons down to England to be ordained. (One was ordained by an Irish bishop on holiday, but that’s another story). Then Charles III (‘Bonny Prince Charlie’) died and the Episcopal Church decided after all to pray for King George, and the “Qualified” priest at Banff happily became what he had always wanted to be, an ordinary Scottish Episcopalian. It took several years before the government recognized that this particular religious minority was no threat.

You might say that this religious persecution was political, not religious. The Episcopal Church was hunted down because, in conscience, they supported a rival line of kings. Historically, there have been cases were religious groups stacked guns in their cellars. But burning down churches, and saying by law that no minister may be in a room with more than five other people, are deeds of tyranny.

It is good to think that St Andrew’s Church is still there, in the same place on the High Street as when Cumberland’s dragoons burnt it down on November 10th 1746, and you can see, now on loan in the Museum of Banff, the chalice rescued from the ruins of the New Durn chapel.

The famous aviation brothers were known around the world but we had our own Wright Brothers in the North East, not famous for flying but for making Threshing Mills.

William Wright trained as a millwright at Alehouseburn and aged just 23 was already making all kinds of agricultural machinery in his own business. By 1870 he had designed a traction engine which was used to power threshing machines and toured the area.

By 1888, he was producing turnip-sowing machines, manure spreaders and threshing machines.

Timber for the many machines was bought from the Cullen House annual wood sale and the business continued to grow.

In 1889 William moved his business to the Boyne Mills, outside Portsoy. This had previously been a woollen and tweed mill owned by William Walker and Co who, from 1881, sold their goods from the old U.P. church in Carmelite Street, Banff.  William Wright continued to build agricultural machinery as well as carrying out general joinery. Some of the local projects included working on the new United Free Church at Cullen and at the Hay Memorial Hall in Cornhill.

William Wright died in 1902, but the business was carried on by his family. They continued to supply threshing mills all over the country, from Perthshire northwards. Farms where the threshing mills were installed included Mains of Skeith, and Fiskaidly locally. When the threshing mill was installed at Fiskaidly a large company of friends and neighbours were invited to inspect the new buildings and machinery. This was followed by supper and dancing with songs sung in the intervals.

In 1909, “an interested company met at the Home Farm of Sir George Abercromby of Forglen, to witness the installation of a threshing plant of the most improved type” (a Wright Brothers installation)

By the mid 1950s the demand for threshing mills had declined and the business disappeared over time.

Wright Brothers’ threshing mills can still be seen at agricultural shows.