A correspondent of the “Elgin Courier” supplies a notice of the origin of Dufftown, which may be interesting to some of our readers. The town he says, is pleasantly situated near the centre basin of two or three miles in circumference, which has been scooped out from the hills that everywhere surround it, and can only be approached by the glens and chasms that break the continuity of its immoveable guardians. This basin or hollow at the beginning of this century, was, excepting a few acres of cultivated land, entirely marsh and moor, and must have presented as cold and dreary a landscape as can well be imagined. Some nine or ten mud hovels were scattered about, without order or arrangement, near to where Conval and Kirkton Streets now are, and were known by the appellation of Laichie, and formed the nucleus of the present village. The inhabitants of Laichie were tradesmen, such as shoemakers, wrights, blacksmiths, and one merchant-the latter, however, was more in name than reality, as the greater part of the merchant business in the parish was transacted at the Kirkton (about a quarter of a mile distant), where the inn at Hardhaugh, which was the only one for many miles, offered more temptation to the traveller, and was moreover, more in the public way, as the principal road to Glenrinnes and the upper districts passed through it.

As our readers are aware, it was the late Earl of Fife who projected the idea of establishing the present village. He employed the late Mr Thomas Shier, long resident at Keith, and the surveyor and constructor of many of the roads in the North, to plan the town:-

The first foundation was laid for Mr Duff’s house, but the first fire was kindled in that house, afterwards famous as “Babbe Law’s lodging house;” and was the alacrity with which fues were taken off and builded upon, that in a very short time the Kirkton became eclipsed, and the postmaster, Mr Kagg, and Mr Eyvil, the merchant, or the Raal (Real) Eyvil, as he was called, raised their camp and followed the throng. In fact, there was a general exodus from it, and few, if any, remained in any way connected with business save Mr M’Connachie of Hardhaugh Inn, who clung to his position for the sake of the fading glories of Harry Fair, which lingered for a short time at its old stance until it was transferred to the square of Dufftown.

Every feuar now vied with his neighbour in improving his acre and a half of “out field” or rent-free land; and the noble proprietor had soon the satisfaction of seeing bogs and fearn bushes giving place to cultivated and blooming fields. Much, however, was yet to be done. The road to Craigellagie was as wretched as could be desired, the one to Keith was exceedingly bad and the only one to Glenrinnes was that which may be still traced from the Kirkton. Lord Fife, who may be said to have been the father of the village, from the interest and care he took of it, again came to the rescue, and Mr Shear once more appeared in the district, to the annoyance of some few farmers, who cared less for the accommodation of the villagers or the public, than for the protection of every inch of ground from the pollution of Thomas’s pins and guiding poles, which they justly considered were but preludes to a more daring innovation; and some of them said to have been particularly obliging in showing him the beauty and utility of roads beyond their own fields.

            Dufftown now began to be a place of some importance, and threatened to rival the older villages of Rothes and Charlestown. Markets were held during the summer months, and the Dufftonians, with a liberality that has ever characterised them, vended the mountain dew at every door in the village. This liberty, however, only extended to market days; and since it rarely happened that everybody had managed to sell all the stock, the following or “auld day” was usually spent in doing the neighbourly turn of assisting brother dealers to get clear of their liquor, and it not unfrequently happened that the “auld day” was worse than the market, before the remaining spirits had been consumed. Of course, their whisky was obtained by illicit distillation, or from unlicensed distillers, for though the Excise were beginning to tighten the reins upon them, the terrors of law as yet had made very little impression, and hardly any concealment was sought; for an old inhabitant informs us that it was a common thing for him to see three or four brewing pots carried out in the morning while he was opening his place of business; and so much was it made a traffic of, that most of the principal persons in the district were engaged in it, and Mr Gordon, the first innkeeper in Dufftown, lost his live by the preventives at Banff, while attempting to take some of it into that town. About this time Free Masonry was the rage; and the St James’s Society in Dufftown was one of the strongest in Scotland, and, as a matter of course, could not do without a “Lodge”. A fine building was therefore erected with a front to the square, and one to Kirkton Street, and having in it a splendid hall, capable of containing from five to six hundred people. Lord Fife, who was “grand-master,” is said to have proposed to put a tower or spire upon it; but owing to some cause of other that was never done. The lodge was now the centre of attraction for the Dufftonians, who were almost all “masons”, and between the general meetings of the St James’s and those for letting the shops and houses in the building, the building was never long unoccupied, and continued so long; as the society existed to be the boast and pride of the members. Little change can now be noted for several years, as free-masonry absorbed the enthusiasm and public spirit until the visitation of cholera, when the Board of Health the appointed, required that in all towns and villages, some places should be erected for keeping vagrants or such persons as might be supposed likely to spread contamination through the country. The place first proposed for this erection was near the lime kilns, below the village, and money was collected for the same; but as it was allowed to lie over for a time, and the cholera then disappearing, it was proposed to build instead a lock-up place for riotous and disorderly persons. A scuffle which took place between some “glen” men shortly after, is said to have given force to the proposal, and caused the tower now standing in the middle of the square to be erected. It took some time before it was finished, as the necessary funds were difficult to be raised, until Mr Findlater got the rent of the Dufftown and Glass market stances to assist them, when he advanced himself the sum necessary to complete it. The fine clock and spire now on it were not included in the original plan, nor would they have been there at all but for the liberality and exertions of Mr Findlater. Another portion of the plan (a town hall with shops underneath), was abandoned, principally from the opposition it received from the feuars in the square, who did not care about having their dwellings overshadowed by it; nor was ever the tower long used for its original purpose, as the authorities, when reducing the expense of the rural constabulary, refused to pay rent for it, when it was turned into a shop, and has been used for that purpose ever since.

            Since the tower was finished, there has been little alteration in the appearance of the village, but many great improvements have been introduced, among the first of which way, the planting of a branch of the North of Scotland Bank; and perhaps none of them have been found more beneficial or convenient, for all the banking business from beyond Tomintoul had until then to be transacted at Keith; water pipes through the streets followed; a Gas Company was formed; another branch  bank established; post-runners appointed for the district of Glenrinnes and Auchindown; a Literary Society established; a railway proposed; a Cricket Club in course of formation, and nothing wanted but street lamps, to put us on footing with larger and more pretending towns of the empire. Along with the structural improvements, the habits of the people have changed, and the commerce and comforts of the place greatly augmented. But a few years ago, meat could only be had now and again, in certain months of the year, and at best some old tough cow; or, if otherwise, one some accident had befallen, and those who were not contented with that or had particular desire for better had to send to Elgin or Keith for it. Now we have three energetic and enterprising fleshers, who kill two or three cattle each a week, and meat of the very best quality can be had at any hour of the day. Of course, more than the villagers are obliged to these men for this. The farmers, instead of driving from market to market, get their cattle disposed of in stalls; and we are sure we speak the mind of the inhabitants in general when we say that we are all under obligations to them for the conveniences and comforts they place within our reach. In the shops, too, the change has been equally great, and we would advise the author of the Speyside Guide to come up and see Mr Shand’s new shop before he publishes his next edition, that he may find something else moralize upon than tobacco pipes, al where improvement is being made, has just added another beauty to the village, in flitting up a shop with a splendid glass front, door and windows being divided only by slight metal pillars, and each window, one sheet of glass. In fact, so rapidly has the village progressed, and so well supplied are we with the comforts of life, that we are aware of nothing we stand in need of but a barber.