Howe History – Aberluthnott/Marykirk

Aberluthnott is the ancient name of the parish, Aber, at the mouth of or perhaps Abar, a marsh, luth , the water of Luther and nott, a wet place. It stretches from the Gauger’s Burn at Laurencekirk to the River North Esk and encompasses the vilaages of Marykirk and Luthermuir.


This village was founded near the crossing of the River North Esk and the church which dates back to at least 1242 when it was , like many others in the area re-consecrated by Bishop de Bernham of Arbroath Abbey. Remains of the old church and crypts remain in the ancient kirkyard.

A bridge, designed by Robert Stevenson, was erected in 1815 at a cost of about £10,000 (possibly including the toll-house). This put paid to the ferry and the Graham family who operated it emigrated to Australia but still live at Boat of Craigo in the state of Victoria to this day.

In the 18th and 19th Century the fishings on the River North Esk were affected by the building of a weir to power the Craigo mills on the other side of the river, and lower down by the Morphie dam and dyke. Both these events resulted in high level legal battles between the Scotts of Brotherton, builders of the dams, and the other local lairds (Earl of Kintore at Inglismaldie, Gillies at Balmakewan, Arbuthnotts at Hatton and Tailyour at Kirktonhill) seeking redress for the damage to their fishings .

The village gave its name to the parish but has also retains its alternative title of Aberluthnott which gives a better description of the area covered.

The old hub of the village contains mostly older dwellings standing close to the road in addition to which is the “new” church, Marykirk Hotel, remains of the old Market Cross and the gate lodges for the drive to the former Kirktonhill House. Previous lairds of Kirktonhill include the Tailyour family, merchants from Montrose and Mr R.W. Adamson of the Burma Oil Company.

On the opposite side of the main street is Blyth House, home at one time to Professor Blyth who is credited with building the world’s first wind powered electricity generation which was erected here at the end of the 19thCentury. He was a fellow academic to Lord Kelvin at Glasgow University.

Another first for Marykirk was the claim that, in 1747, an Irish labourer who had moved here from Kilsyth, grew the first potatoes in the area. They did not however find much support from the locals and it was many years before the “tattie” started to replace oatmeal as the main carbohydrate in the diet.

Prior to the railway, which arrived around 1849, the village like most others was largely self- sufficient with its own tailor, blacksmith, shoemaker, baker, joiner and even a brickworks. The latter was actually demolished to make way for the railway.

In the twentieth century the old Napier school and nearly Dunthill were replaced by a new primary school for the area and both private and local authority housing has increased the size of the settlement.

The main street is also the link road between Montrose and the A90 and only the 2012 Olympic torch relay was able to modify the traffic and give the village its few seconds of fame in the local media. It was particularly timely for the Torch to pass here as it coincided with the centenary of local Olympic gold medallist W.D. Kinnear’s win in Stockholm in the single sculls. Kinnear was born at Balmanno farm, Marykirk and grew up in Laurencekirk before moving to London and discovering his rowing skills.

Listen to “The Road to Marykirk” by Violet Jacob, sung by James Curran


Moving across the parish from Marykirk, we pass the old estate of Balmakewan and its Georgian Mansion near the River and Hatton , a former dower house of the Arbuthnott family.

Crossing with care the A90 dual carriageway we cross the Luther Water at Caldhame, the site of a castle owned by the Middleton family who moved there from Conveth (Laurencekirk).

The village of Luthermuir with its long street of traditional single story cottages was established on the feus of Caldhame, marked on early maps as disputed land and eventually divided between the local lairds.

This uncertainty over ownership perhaps gave “cottars “ the chance to settle themselves on a piece of ground, during the agricultural revolution in Scotland. The men were often engaged in draining the Howe while at that time linen weaving and the manufacture of woollen stockings was the main occupation of the women.

With the arrival of the Jacard looms men became involved in the weaving and the last looms in the village were operated by William Taylor into the second half of the twentieth century (currently the looms are at House of Dun and Glamis Folk Museum).

Luthermuir boasts its own village hall, and its primary school has been in action since the 1800’s. A history of the school based on the contents of its log book was compiled recently by former headmaster, Donald McGilp. The school also provides places for the children from Edzell Woods, the community associated with the former Royal Air Force and U.S. Navy Base at the former Edzell Aerodrome.

The church in Luthermuit was built by a secessionist movement and the remains of a Berean Chapel lie near Sauchieburn Hotel on the road to Fettercairn. The former Free Church , now a home lies adjacent to the A90, demonstrating a rich and varied religious zeal.

To find real antiquity you must make your way to the Capo Long Barrow, a Stone Age burial mound dating from around 3,000 BC. Only “discovered” by Dr Dally of Edzell in the 1950’s, it is the survivor of two which stood near the River North Esk, providing evidence for the first farmers to settle in the area.

The Old Northwater Bridge which lies down stream of the A90 was built by John Erskine of Dun in the late 1500s and took the weight of all the traffic north and south until 1972. It also acted as overnight prison for Covenanter prisoners on their way to the Whigs’ Vault in Dunnottar Castle in 1685.

Other estates in the parish include that of Thornton with its castle and old cricket pavilion .The family longest associated with it were the Strachans whose vault at Marykirk has been recently restored. Newton estate was part of the Earl of Kintore’s family estate and Balmakelly another with various landlords of different families being associated with it. Drumnagair (the hill of the cattle or perhaps the goats) is listed in Scottish Baronies. A Lady Drumnagair is recorded as living in Laurencekirk around 1800.

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