Near the old Castle of Balvenie is a small circular plot of trees, hallowed by tradition as the last resting place of a king. By not a few it is supposed to be the graves of Enecus and Magnus, the two Generals who led the Danes to the battle of Mortlach, and who fell on the adjoining hill of Tomnamuid, or Court hill, on that memorable day; and the name Balvenie is held by such to be also derived from the same circumstance – Balvenie meaning according to them, Manustown. There is good reason however for believing that the proper reading of the word is ”the town of the hill,” and that the spot where the Danish leaders were buried was nearer to the wood, and was moreover marked by the stone afterwards known as the aqua vitae stone. The reason why this stone received such a name was, that after it had been rolled from the grave of the warriors to form part of a fence near Meg Dallachie’s change-house, there was usually a quantity of spirits consumed at or on in, and few stones, we believe, have been more appropriately designated. It was however broken up, and the last portion of it that we know of, marks the march between the lands of Mr Wilson, innkeeper, and Mr Brodie. The king’s grave, then, is not that of Manus or Enecus, and as we have nothing but the traditional story to guide us, we must accept it. It decidedly affirms, then, that it is a king’s grave, and particularises the circumstance of his death and burial thus: – A foreign band having scoured the country from the shores of the Moray Firth to the banks of the Fiddich, suddenly and unexpectedly received a check from the garrison of the Castle, and their haughty leader, determined to reduce such an obstruction to his marauding excursions, resolved to lay siege to it, and reduce it to the ground.

But as a preparatory measure he constructed a camp or fort on the top of the middle Conval — a pretty high hill about a mile distant. This camp consisted of two dykes and ditches which encircled the entire summit of the hill, and watch cairns seem also to have run at stated intervals round the whole inner wall. These, with the debris of the wall, are yet to be seen, and the outer and inner ditch can also be traced round the greater part of the hill. On the southern side of the hill there are several cairns, or tumuli, which it is supposed contained the slaughtered soldiers of the invading king. Well, having encamped there, he made a number of furious but fruitless assaults upon the Castle, and always when repulsed retreated to the camp to recruit his strength and renew the attack. During one of these assaults an arrow, shot from the walls of the Castle, wounded the king, and as he feared that the wound might prove fatal, he caused a halt during the retreat to the camp, and addressing his soldiers, when about hail-way up the hill, requested to be buried wherever the arrow should alight that he was about to shoot—then calling for a bow, and mustering all his strength, he fired an arrow for the Castle, but it fell short of the mark and alighted at this place, where he of course was interred, and it has ever since been called the king’s grave. But leaving Balvenie and passing along, we soon come upon the handsome village, or, as its inhabitants call it,


This neat little town is but of modern erection, the oldest house not dating farther back than forty or forty-four years. It has, however, in that time attained considerable dimensions, and numbers about 130 or 140 substantial, and in some cases handsome dwellings. The shape of the town is that of a cross, the shorter arm of which is Castle and Kirkton Streets, and the larger Conval and Fife Streets. The first two run very nearly north and south, and the others have the same approximation to the east and west. In both arms of the cross, however, there is a divergence from the straight line—a defect in the plan, which, however much it may now be regretted, was an intentional one on the part of the engineer, for he (Mr Shear) held the rather strange doctrine that small towns should have crooked streets, to prevent them from being all seen at once, and thus induce passengers and strangers to traverse the whole. Holding such opinions, ground was chosen to suit his purpose, and a circumbendibus in both Kirkton and Fife Streets effectually prevents any one from seeing either properly, without walking over the greater part of them.


In the centre, where the streets cross each other, is a large square, of some hundred feet either way. Around it are substantial and commodious two storey houses, and near the middle of it stands a strange obelisk-like building called the Tower, on which there is an excellent four dial clock, that rings forth in clear musical tones the number of the hour as it passes. This tower is of the castellated form, but is also (not very artistically) surmounted with a sharp pointed spire, terminating in a gilded weather vane. Its singularity, however, consists in its isolation from all other buildings, which makes it the reverse of the Banff building, celebrated in the old couplet beginning—”Banff, it is a borough’s town —a kirk without a steeple,’ for it is a steeple without the church. It was, however, contemplated to have a spacious townhall attached to it; but not being in the original plan of the town, the feuars whose houses were in the square, refused to allow it to be erected, because it would overshadow their dwellings. The original purpose of the tower was for a lock up. and it was for a time used as such, but it has long since been converted into an airy shop, and is at present occupied by Mr Hepburn, druggist, from whom medicines and music of the first quality may be obtained.


The streets are from sixty to seventy feet in width, and from a slight declivity in each, are always kept clean without artificial aid. The town had also used to be supplied with a copious supply of water, which ran continuously from cisterns or wells at the square and at the extremities of the streets; but either from the increasing consumption by the inhabitants, or a diminution of the flow from some of the springs, the supply has so diminished of late years, that during the summer months a scarcity has been felt, and measures are in contemplation to get other springs led to the reservoir to remedy the evil. The houses, too, are lighted with excellent gas, and altogether the village is one of the most handsome and healthy to be met with.


It contains a town hall, a Free Church, and a Roman Catholic Chapel—the latter of which is a very neat one outside, and inside, by the tasteful decorations lavished upon it by Mr Kemp, the in cumbent, one of the most elegant in the north. Beside the chapel, and in connection with it, are large buildings recently erected, which are intended to be used as schools for the children belonging to the congregation—the nucleus of the classes being already formed by Mr Kemp, who has been zealously and successfully teaching a number of boys for some years. Besides these schools—which, from their dimensions, would seem to argue that a large increase to the congregation is expected or that a portion of the buildings are to be devoted to some other purpose than the ostensible one for which they wore erected—are the parish school, the girls’ school, and two or three private ones. The parish school had recently to be extended to afford even sitting room to the scholars, and, by the parsimony of the heritors, in point of taste has been completely disfigured. The girls’ school, which stands between it and the Free Manse, is rather a handsome structure, which is only just completed. It was built under the Government regulations and with Government aid, and will, when in full working order, be one of the greatest boons ever conferred upon a community, for the greatest want experienced by the heads of families, for many years, was that of a first-class female teacher, under whose care and instruction their daughter might be placed.


In the commercial department, there are two branch banks, a distillery, steam meal and thrashing mills, a carding mill, sixteen merchants, twelve public houses, exclusive of shops where whisky is sold, two watchmakers, two saddlers, three bakers, two fleshers. and a corresponding number of other tradesmen. The post office is but a sub, but has united with it a money order office, and perhaps, unless it be the poor remuneration given to the over wrought postmaster, there is no district of country where the people have so little to complain of with the post officials; for, unlike most Highland and rural towns, letters are not allowed to lie till called for, but are daily despatched by runners to the straths of Glenrinnes and Auchindoun, and are delivered every morning at the very doors of the persons to whom they are addressed. The medical faculty is also well represented, for there are three doctors practising here. At the east end of the town are two pretty extensive lime works, where a large and increasing business is done the quality of the lime attracting farmers and builders from a great distance. Indeed, such is the character of Dufftown for its lime and whisky, and such the reputation of its merchants for their go-ahead disposition, that customers are daily to be met with in it from the wilds of Strathdon, the heights of the Cabrach, and the fertile banks of the Spey; and, however strange it may appear, goods can be bought there cheaper than they can be got in Elgin! The other inhabitants not included in the professions indicated above are agricultural labourers and feuars, who employ themselves upon their feu-land. There is only one first class inn—the Fife Arms—where the traveller will meet with every comfort and convenience, and be provided, if required, with capital post horses for single or double harness —for Mr Wilson has rather a reputation for the quality of his stud. The other inns, though more homely, are perhaps none the less comfortable; and the “White Horse” and others, can well afford shelter and succour to both man and beast.


There are six cattle markets held on the market green at the top of the town, and two feeing markets on the Square. Strictly speaking, one of the cattle markets, Distant Fair, is an Aberlour one, and is fast falling away. Little better than the death of it could, however, have been expected by the Dufftonians, if there is any truth in the adage that “ill gotten gear does not bide lang; “for Distant Fair is but a corruption of Skir Dustan, the ancient name of Aberlour; and the market, in days of old, was an Aberlour market, and was only taken and kept by force of arms by the lads of Mortlach during the time of some disagreement between the parishes. And so terrified were the Aberlour folks said to have been of the Mortlach cudgels, that when the time for holding Skir Dustan again arrived, they journeyed to the hill of Tomnamuid with their cattle, where the moveables had been carried, and the market completed on the night of the melee, and peaceably bought and sold upon Mortlach, instead of Aberlour ground. In the earlier days of the licensing system, the selling of whisky on market days was not, as now, restricted to publicans; and the Dufftonians, with a liberality that has ever characterized them, vended the mountain dew at every door of the village. Of course this liberty only extended to market days, and since it rarely happened that everybody had managed to sell all the stock laid in for the market, 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.


A place so well supplied with commercial conveniences, and situated, as Dufftown is, in the midst of the most delightful scenery, cannot fail to be a desirable summer residence; and the wonder indeed is, that so few from the sea coast avail themselves of the change and enjoyments which it holds out. Lying high and dry, it is one of the healthiest villages in Scotland; and apart altogether from its clean and beautiful appearance and picturesque situation, has so many places of historic interest and points of attraction around it, that we hardly know of a place so well adapted for spending a few weeks or months in. There are hills for the sportsman. the rivers Dullan and Fiddich for the angler —and better trout than those of’ the latter never swam—castles and corners, valleys and glens, for the more contemplative pleasure seeker, and a hospitable and obliging population for all to go out and come in among. Before another year, Dufftown will have the full benefit of railway communication; and when the iron horse is daily snorting along the banks of the Fiddich—laden with people from east and west, south and north—we may expect that not a few will fix on this picturesque locality as a summer residence.


We have already hinted that the inhabitants of Dufftown put forth a claim for citizenship, and though it is factiously done, the requirements for making a town a city are so nearly if not altogether complied with, that by courtesy at least they are entitled to the name, for if they fail to prove that Balvenie ever was a royal residence otherwise than by tradition, no one can positively say that it was not; while the seat of a Bishop—the next condition —they undoubtedly possess, so that from henceforth let it be the City of Dufftown. A city however without magistrates would be an anomaly, and Dufftown has for many years rejoiced and prospered under the sway of judicious and worthy magistrates. The first Provost legitimately elected was Mr Murdoch—Mr Cantlie, Keithmore, when a merchant in the town enjoyed the title by courtesy —but when the committee of feuars who managed the service roads and other public business of the town, took the matter seriously into consideration to elect a provost in regular manner, their choice tell upon Mr Murdoch, and that nothing might be wanting to sustain the dignity, Bailies, Councillors, occ., were elected, down to a Town Chamberlain and officer. After Provost Murdoch had borne the honour for four successive years, he resigned it in favour of Mr Brown. After him came Provost Melvin, who was once if not twice re-elected. Provost Murdoch again took office for a year, when he was succeeded by Mr Shand, and after him came the present Provost, who has four successive times been unanimously called upon to fill the civic chair.

The present magistrates are: —

Provost—J. M’Donell, merchant.

Bailies—Messrs Wm, Grant blacksmith, J. Grant,

postmaster, J. M Pherson, builder, and Lewis

Scott, contractor.

Councillors —Messrs John Shand, cartwright; John McPherson, builder;

Jas. Myren, rieaher; John Murdoch, feuar; and Peter Walker, feuar.

Chamberlain—Mr Alexander Grant, feuar.

Dean of GuiId —Mr James Dey, sea., house carpenter.

Officer— Mr William Mitchell.

Town Clerk—Mr George Rutherford.

Of course the magistrates of Dufftown do not condescend to the drudgery of the judicial courts; these are left (shall we say delegated) to the Baron Bailie and ordinary Justices of the Peace.