Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1846
FORGAN, a parish, in the district of St. Andrew's, county of Fife, 9 miles (N. E. by E.) from Cupar; containing, with the villages of East and West Newport, and Woodhaven, 1219 inhabitants. This place is supposed to have derived its name, signifying in the Saxon language "a fore-ground," from the elevated and conspicuous situation which it occupies on the bank of the river Tay.
For many generations it was the property of the Nairnes, who held distinguished offices in the state, and one of whom was elevated to the peerage of Scotland in the time of Charles I. The estate of St. Fort, with other lands in the parish belonging to that ancient family, was sold at the beginning of the last century; but the title, which had become forfeited during the rebellion of 1745, was restored in the reign of George IV. The St. Fort estate is now in the hands of Henry Stewart, Esq.; and the only portion of the original possessions which is still the property of the Nairne family, is the small estate of Morton.
The parish is six miles in length and above two in breadth; it is bounded on the north by the river Tay, and comprises 5000 acres, of which 4000 are arable and in profitable cultivation, 600 pasture and meadow, and 400 woodland and plantations. The surface is in some parts pleasingly undulated, and in others agreeably diversified with level plains: of the rising grounds the most elevated are the eminences of St. Fort and Newton, which are about 300 feet above the level of the sea. The scenery is richly varied, and from the higher lands are fine views over the river, which skirts the parish for nearly four miles; the shore is bold and rocky, and indented with several bays, of which the chief are, Woodhaven and Newport, where convenient harbours have been constructed, and Wormit bay, which bounds the western extremity of the parish.
The soil is generally fertile, consisting of black loam interspersed with clayey mould, and in some parts of a light, gravelly kind, in which are found occasionally large boulders of trapstone. The system of agriculture is in a very advanced condition; the rotation plan of husbandry is practised, and every improvement in the management of the lands is speedily adopted. The crops are, barley, oats, wheat, potatoes, and turnips, which are usually favourable and abundant; and the surplus produce of grain finds a ready sale in the markets of St. Andrew's, Cupar, and Dundee. The cattle are principally of the Fifeshire breed, with a slight mixture of the Angus, Ayrshire, and Teeswater, which last, however, are by no means suited to the soil; the sheep are of the Cheviot and Leicestershire breeds. The plantations have been lately much extended, especially on the lands of St. Fort and Tayfield; they consist chiefly of fir, though the soil is well adapted for oak, ash, chestnut, and beech: there are few trees of remarkable growth, except some yew-trees at Kirkton, which are unrivalled specimens of the kind. The farm-houses and offices are mostly superior; and several of them, of more recent erection, are handsome and exceedingly convenient. Considerable progress has been made in inclosing the lands, but much yet remains to be done in this respect; the fences are principally of stone, with a few of hedges, and are generally well kept. The substrata are, sandstone, whinstone, and greenstone, which last is extensively quarried for building and for other purposes: there is neither freestone nor limestone in the parish, but lime for agricultural uses is brought by sea from various places, and freestone from the quarries in Angus. The greenstone is fine grained, compact, and of deep colour; and on the banks of the river are rocks of amygdaloidal greenstone, in which are found metals, and quartz resembling agate.
The rateable annual value of the parish is £7914. St. Fort, the residence of Mr. Stewart, is a spacious and handsome mansion in the Elizabethan style of architecture, recently erected, and pleasantly situated in a demesne enriched with flourishing plantations. Tayfield is also a handsome mansion, lately enlarged and embellished, and beautifully seated on the bank of the Tay, of which it commands an extensive view, with the varied and romantic scenery of the adjacent lands, thickly interspersed with pleasing cottages.
A salmon-fishery is still carried on; but since the prohibition of stake-nets, it is neither so abundant nor so profitable as formerly, and at present scarcely affords to the proprietor a rental of £150 per annum: the fish, which are of very superior flavour, and in great demand, are sent to Dundee, where they are packed in ice and forwarded by steam-boats to London. A very large shoal of herrings was formerly found in the Tay, near Newport; but none have appeared within the last fifty years.
The weaving of linen is carried on upon a limited scale, affording employment to about twenty or thirty persons, who work at their own homes for the manufacturers of Dundee. Facility of intercourse with the neighbouring market-towns is afforded by excellent roads, of which the principal road from the north-eastern part of the country to Edinburgh extends for nearly three miles through the parish, passing by the ferry at Newport, from which place communication with Dundee is maintained by steam-boats, which ply hourly, and have altogether superseded the sailing-packets formerly in use. A ferry from Woodhaven to Dundee was also once kept up; but, being attended with great inconvenience, an act of parliament was obtained a few years since for its discontinuance, and for the establishment of that of Newport as the only ferry.
The parish is in the presbytery of St. Andrew's and synod of Fife, and patronage of the Crown; the minister's stipend is £230.19.8., with a manse, and a glebe of about nine acres. The old church, situated in a pleasing and sequestered spot, at the southern extremity of the parish, formerly belonged to the priory of St. Andrew's, and is said to have been built on that site for the accommodation of a family residing in the neighbouring mansion-house of Kirkton, and who contributed largely towards the expense of its erection. This edifice has been suffered to go to ruin, as, from the inconvenience of its position for the generality of the parishioners, a new church was erected in 1841 in a more central part of the parish. There is a place of worship near Newport for a congregation of Independents. The parochial school affords instruction to about 120 children; the master has a salary of £34, with the fees, and a good dwelling-house and large garden: an excellent school-house was recently erected in a convenient situation, upon the completion of which the number of scholars considerably increased.
There are numerous cairns and tumuli, though none of them have been fully explored; and in forming the road to Newport, several urns of rude workmanship were discovered.
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