The History of the Howe - Early Times

Those who have studied the geology of the Howe o' the Mearns think there is a strong possibility that in the dim dark past much of the valley was under water to varying degrees. Later it is reckoned the central area of the Howe was a loch into which the streams emptied their waters; when this in turn drained away vast marshlands and forests were left to form the landscapes of Pre-historic Mearns. The main marsh is thought to have stretched from Redmyre, Fordoun, to Luthermuir.

Now all that is left of those mighty waters and bogs are the North Esk River, the Bervie and Luther Waters and their small tributaries. One legacy left by that gradual drainage, and the work which has gone on ever since, is the arable soil of the Mearns...the bright red clay and the rich brown earth.

It is recorded that back then the Howe was peopled by savage tribes who ran wild and half naked in the woods, moors and swamps, giving their time over to wanton pleasures and warfare. Later in our history we find trhey are again described by the Romans as "Mearnsmen, a troublesome and warlike race!"

Savages they may have apppeared to invaders, but their is evidence that they had religious beliefs of some sort as is denoted by the many standing stones, cairns and longbarrows which are to be found around the area.

In the majority of the Mearns Parishes there is also evidence of Stone, Bronze and Iron Age settlements.

In 80 AD the Romans invaded Scotland and, although it was some time before they reached these airts, many traces of their sojourn were found in the past. For example there was what was thought to be a Roman camp at Fordoun and the remains of Roman roads in the Carmont and Glasslaw area.

The Mearns was part of the Northern Pictish domain until Kenneth MacAlpin managed to unite them with the Southern Scots. In our North East corner there was, and still is, a strong Norse influence, as is obvious from many place names.

After the unification the Howe o' the Mearns became a favourite Hawking and Hunting Ground for the Kings. The main hunting lodge was at the Castle of Kincardine and its surrounding village, with kirktowns at Fettercairn and Fordoun. The home of the King's Falconer and Hawks was at Hawkerston, which of course is now Halkerton, Laurencekirk.

Unfortunately, when the King came a-hunting he brought with him an extensive retinue of officers and servants who required accommodation and feeding! In order to meet these expenses, unpopular taxes known as Kains or Conveths were imposed on the populace.

Surnames given to some of their retainers still exist to this day - Durward, Falconer, Marshall and Stewart, to name but a few.

Not too much is known about the religious history of the Howe. St. Ninian and St. Columba brought Christianity to the Picts and two of their missionaries, Palladius and Ternan, settled in this part of the North East - hence St. Palladius's Church, Drumtochty, and St. Ternan's, Arbuthnott.

There is no doubt the Howe has changed with the passing years. The Union of the Crowns, clan feuds, the Jacobean Risings,industrialisation, World Wars, immigration, mechanisation, North Sea oil and gas - these have all played a role in the changing face of the Howe o' the Mearns.


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