Ancient and modern meet in Turriff. The little town sits at the bend of the river Deveron, set among trees and ringed with castles.
Tradition has it that Malcolm Canmore built the now ruined Kirk of St. Congan in the 12thC on the site of an old Pictish fort. Around the year 600 St Congan had founded a monastery on the eastern outskirts of today’s town, now known as St Congan’s Den.
In the late 13thC, Alexander Comyn, Constable of Scotland, built a hospice for “1 Master, 6 Chaplains and 13 Poor Husbandmen of Buchan.”
Next date, 1511. The town was created a Burgh of Barony by James IV – a whole new way of life for Turra folk! Three annual fairs and the right to trade freely in “wine, wax, wool and leather” The first market cross erected and baillies appointed.
The first shot in the Covenanting Wars was fired in Turriff!
The Covenanters had been in command of the town since February 1693, but on 20th May were put to flight by the Royalists, led by the Marquis of Huntly. This is known as “The Trot Of Turriff.”
In 1746, Cumberland’s troops on their way to Culloden burned the contents of the Parish Church. Only the intervention of the Episcopalian minister prevented the destruction of the building itself.
In 19th C Scotland transport links were developing and, in 1826, the handsome red sandstone Deveron Bridge was built to replace the age-old ferry.
Other developments followed – Town gas in 1839, a postal service in 1840, the railway in 1856. Turriff had come a long way from the small settlements known in ancient times as “Torbruad”. Victorian boom times!
Young men from Turriff had long been drawn into serving their country, and many had joined the ranks of the Gordon Highlanders.
One such native of Turriff, George Findlater, a piper with the Gordon Highlanders, was awarded the V.C. by Queen Victoria.
During the Pathan Revolt in India in 1897 the Gordons and the Ghurkas came under heavy fire while attempting to take the Heights of Dargai. Three quarters of the way across an exposed strip of land Piper Findlater was shot in the ankles. He fell and, leaning against a rock, continued to play his pipes as blood ran down from his wounds, staining his kilt red.
He spent months in hospital in Rawalpindi and Portsmouth and much was made of him in the press.
After several concert tours in UK and America, Piper Findlater returned to Turriff, married his cousin and secured the tenancy of a small farm in Forglen.
Between 1927 and 1940 he served as Pipe Major with Turriff Pipe Band. In his honour, the Dargai Trophy is awarded annually.
He is buried in Forglen Churchyard, beside the Deveron.
Now to the world famous Turra’ Coo! In 1911, Lloyd George, the Liberal Prime Minister, brought in National Insurance legislation. Robert Paterson of Lendrum Farm refused to comply. He maintained he looked after his employees. To pay the imposed fine, a white cow was impounded, to be sold in the market place in Turriff. The cow was brought to the Square, be-ribbonned and painted with the words “LENDRUM TO LEEKS” a reference to Lloyd George’s Welsh roots. A riot ensued! Sherriff’s officers were pelted with eggs, soot, neeps, cabbages, divots and kail stumps by a mob of a thousand. The Coo escaped, only to be taken to the Mart in Aberdeen, to be bought by local farmers and brought back to her home at Lendrum, where she died 6 years later. A memorial to her, and the events which led to the formation of the Scottish Farm Servants’ Union can be seen at Lendrum Farm.
Two World Wars took their toll on the youth of the rural community, as it was for all similar Scottish towns.
In the 60’s and 70’s the railway closed, the swimming pool opened and the new building of Turriff Academy completed. An Industrial Estate was established and the population of the town expanded.
Further population expansion came along with North Sea Oil and today Turriff is a prosperous community, still with strong Aberdeenshire roots, but with residents “fae a’ the airts.”